The campaign launched last year, and saw the likes of Barack Obama kissing Chinese leader Hu Jintao, and one ad in the series did include Pope Benedict XVI embracing Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Imam of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo with a kiss, but within hours of the launch it was withdraw from publication after it was condemned by the Vatican.
The jury for the prize said that Benetton’s campaign, created by Italian agency Fabrica, in cooperation with 72andSunny NL, was celebrated for both its universal message and its ability to go beyond just the printed page, and was noted as an example for the industry because Benetton’s ad was not only an incentive to sell products, but also an attempt at improving the world.
Jury president Tham Khai Meng said: "It cuts through all cultures, nationalities, faith even. It has heart impact and gut impact and promotes a global debate." Commenting on the win, Alessandro Benetton, chairman of the Benetton Group said: “With the Unhate campaign we wanted to send a message about the need to overcome the culture of hate, through dialogue and the understanding of differences.
“To convey this we opted to use the most democratic and modern media, those most coherent with our message, which would allow us not only to reach the largest number of people, but also to engage with people, and especially the young, through online interaction.”
Even though some print publications including the International Herald Tribune didn’t run the campaign, the Unhate ads has made an impact, with Benetton claiming the campaign has reached 500m Internet users worldwide. In addition, the brand has also reported that the campaign attracted more than 3,000 articles written about it and 600 TV reports in 60 nations. Within social media, the campaign became one of the top Twitter trends within days of the launch and on Facebook the campaign generated a 60 per cent increase in the number of fans.
The Cannes accolade is the latest international honour for the Unhate campaign; it was awarded two Gold Pencils at the One Show Awards, an American award show dedicated to advertising. It also picked up the Royal Jelly at the Bees Awards, for “having changed the game in social media marketing”, and the music in the short film Unhate won a prize from the AICP Awards.