United Colors of Benetton takes shock advertising to a whole new level with this image. This one of Benetton’s ads from 1992 as part of their campaign to confront themes of social nature, including images of “obscure and insidious illness, violence and intimidation, forced emigration, and natural catastrophes” (http://production.investis.com/ben_en/about/campaigns/list/electric_chair/?version=1).

This ad reminds me of Andy Warhol’s “Electric Chair” series of prints from the 60s, which is still gives me shivers.

I am from Texas, a state that has put to death 405 people since 1982 (http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/stat/executedoffenders.htm), and extremely against the death penalty, so I have a very strong reaction to these images. Just looking at the website with all the names and stats on the people who have been executed gives me goosebumps and my stomach starts to flip.

Before I start to go too far off on a tangent that is completely unrelated to class, let me say that this ad is extremely emotional in it’s subject matter and falls into Wilson’s argument about the Six Tugs of War. As with all of Benetton’s ads since 1982, it doesn’t show any clothing, but chooses to promote issues of social controversy. This is more than a clothing ad, it’s a piece of artwork created to make the viewer think about this issue. Of course, the brand name is smacked on the side of the photo to create a connection between Benetton and the image, otherwise the consumer would have no idea what to attribute or connect to the image. I think Andy Warhol would be very pleased with this image… it takes his ideas of consumerism and the commodification of people and ideas through mass media to the next level by actually implementing these ideas into their advertising techniques.

I think for those very reasons a lot of people have issues with Benetton’s ads and in some cases it’s hard to decide if Benetton is doing this because they really care about these issues or if they are capitalizing on issues. Personally, I think they really care but in the end should it really matter? At least they are bringing these issues to people’s attention unlike Wal-Mart which doesn’t even try to hide their evil ways!

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