PONZANO, ITALY: Benetton Group is stridently defending a recent ad
campaign even as it pays out dollars 50,000 and writes letters of regret
to quell the public outrage it sparked.
The campaign, which ran throughout 2000, featured pictures of death-row
inmates emblazoned with the phrase, "Sentenced to Death." Intended to
initiate debate about the death penalty, the ads instead inspired a
lawsuit filed by the State of Missouri. The suit alleged that the
company misled prison officials as to the intent of their visits in
order to gain access to four of the prisoners used in the ads.
Benetton is well known for its provocative ads, which have always gained
extensive added coverage on a limited ad budget. Past campaigns have
included models kissing while dressed as a priest and a nun, dying AIDS
patients and war victims.
Though its traditional PR-seeking tactics looked as though they may have
backfired, the company has salvaged its reputation by agreeing to the
settlement terms while sticking to its own agenda.
As part of the settlement, Benetton will pay dollars 50,000 to The
Missouri Crime Victims Compensation fund and has committed to outreach
measures, including writing letters of regret to the families of the
Missouri prisoners' victims. Nonetheless, Benetton made it clear even as
the settlement was made public last week that it stood by the ad
A statement released by the company stated in part: "Benetton Group ...
does not intend to go back on the campaign which it created, financed
and fully supported. The aim of the campaign was to contribute to the
debate about the death penalty, which continues throughout the world,
including the USA."
Frederico Sartor, chief of Benetton's press office in Ponzano, Italy,
said, "We did not and will not apologize for the death-row campaign." He
also denied that Oliviero Toscani, the photographer and creative
director of the campaign who was reportedly fired following the
controversy, was dismissed as a result of the ads.