The United Killers of Benetton
March 18, 2000 9:44 AM   Subscribe

The United Killers of Benetton It seems that the italian clothing company Benetton recently used death row inmates in a rather distasteful ad campaign that featured death row inmates and thier clothing. Check it out. Quite a groundswell of protest is mounting against this. The matter seems to be equally offending to both pro and anti death sentence folks.
posted by Dean_Paxton (20 comments total)
don't forget, Benetton has been doing these kind of in your face ads for years and years. The weirdest thing to me about Benetton is their print and web magazine Colors which is in many ways a scathing indictment of consumer culture.
posted by jessamyn at 10:26 AM on March 18, 2000

I think that the problem with these ads is that while previous Benetton ads have been bold and in-your-face they also shown light on social problems. A dying AIDS patient is not a commercial for AIDS, it's a commercial for AIDS research.

Showing death row inmates, to me, is just a cheap publicity stunt, not up to the standards that Benetton set for itself.

posted by jedrek at 10:57 AM on March 18, 2000

At first, I thought it was in interesting attempt at opening up a discussion of capital punishment. But then it seems they solely set out to push others' buttons, putting Brandon Teena's killer in one of the ads. Messy stuff, but then I can't remember the last ad campaign that was this unsettling to me, so they succeeded in getting us talking about Benetton at least.
posted by mathowie at 11:11 AM on March 18, 2000

Try to keep in mind the culture of Italy, where Benetton is based. They are a VERY anti-death penalty nation, and Benetton is making a social statement. Does it have to do with selling clothes? I don't think so.

They are trying to put a human face back on those whom society dehumanizes. I can't say I disagree with doing that.

Perhaps if we in this country tied capital punishment to the certainty of guilt rather than the nature of the crime, there would be less obvious injustice. Illinois has the right idea: stop this mad, dysfunctional capital punishment system until we can ensure that an innocent person will never be executed.
posted by CalvinTheBold at 11:27 AM on March 18, 2000

First to address Matt's comment. Where is Brandon Teena's killer? Its not on the website. Second, I think what Benetton is doing is awesome. They are giving chances to people that no one else is willing to listen to, guilt or not, to say something, to get something out. I myself am anti-dealth penalty, I dont agree with the eye for the eye thing. This isnt moses's time. Setting that aside, I am not saying that they are innocent, some dont even claim to be, and dont deserve punishment. No one deserves to die. The Leroy Orange guy looks pretty damned innocent though.
posted by jeffknox at 11:49 AM on March 18, 2000

Personally, I see nothing wrong with these ads. I'm against the death penalty and the ads do a very good job of putting a human face on the people who are soon to be put to death.
posted by Mark at 12:08 PM on March 18, 2000

I've heard Brandon Teena's killer was in the print ads (the only person in the ads I'd know anything about, and someone I'd have the hardest time discussing innocence with, which is why I alluded to them pushing buttons), so I'd assume the people shown on the benetton site are just a sampling of the people featured in the ads.

Don't get me wrong, I'm anti-death penalty, I can't support something that makes innocent people pay the ultimate price. I mean, for fuck's sake can you believe this list of people released from death row on evidence of their innocence is so long?

The justice system is imperfect, but there's nothing imperfect about an execution, when you're dead, you're dead, and I can't believe we take death penalty convictions so lightly.
posted by mathowie at 12:11 PM on March 18, 2000

Allow me to quote from Speedy Rice on The Benetton Site:
We execute men, women, children, the mentally retarded, the mentally ill, and all races and colors without regard to their nationality or international cries for mercy. Mostly it is the poor who get the death sentence. Even the innocent are not beyond being executed in United States. Conservative estimates indicate that at least 23 innocent people have been executed in United States in the 20th Century. It is impossible to estimate the number of innocent persons sit awaiting execution. What we do know because of the dedication of lawyers, journalism students and others is that 82 people have been released from death rows on proof of actual innocents since 1973. Many just hours before their execution, and often the result of publicity, not a working and fair legal system.
Our highest Court has rejected innocence as a basis for review of a death sentence deferring such claims to the clemency process. Then, State Governors reject clemency by saying the legal process was the correct place to address innocence. This vicious Catch-22, and its tragic results, screams profanity at the notion of universal human rights. Some of our political leaders even support the execution of innocent persons. U.S. Congressman Bill McCullom of Florida has stated publicly that it is acceptable for innocent people to be executed because that trade-off is worth the security that comes from executing people. He continues to get re-elected.
The truth in this is sickening.
posted by CalvinTheBold at 12:18 PM on March 18, 2000

The idea of this ad campaign initially disturbed me--using death row inmates to sell their clothes? That's kind of a sick idea. But the article on the website was actually very thoughtful and--dare I say it?--meaningful, and the interviews were fairly powerful however you look at it. The whole thing also appears to have nothing to do with selling clothes, save for the United Colors of Benneton logo in the corner. If it weren't connected with a clothes company, I'd think it was an extremely admirable campaign, and as it is I think it's damn fine indictment of capital punishment. That's based on what I see on the website, anyway; the idea of putting Brandon Teena's killer in an ad is questionable, to say the least.
posted by Annabel.Gill at 5:10 PM on March 18, 2000

I remember seeing an article about his about a month ago when it first began. What I remember is that law enforcement officials were upset with the ads because Benneton misrepresented what they were going to use the pictures/interviews with death row inmates for. At the time, they apparently claimed it was for some sort of documentary.
posted by schlyer at 5:40 PM on March 18, 2000

It might be worthy to note that the state of Missouri is
Benetton for fradulent misrepresentation. Some penal officals were told that the photographs and videos were for a documentry, some were evidently told they were for a Newsweek article.

Also, note that Benetton USA Executive Vice President Carlo Tunioli says: "There's no correlation between these guys" he said, gesturing to 5-feet-high portraits of David Leroy Skaggs (2 counts of 1st-degree murder) and Bobby Lee Harris (1st-degree murder) "and our sweaters. In terms of an advertising strategy, what we are really doing is building brand awareness."

Brand awareness, obviously not moral awareness.

One final thought, Sears recently dropped all Benetton products as a result of the nature of the campaign.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 5:58 PM on March 18, 2000

Why should families be subjected to the faces of the monsters who killed their loved ones being paraded around as heroes? The true question is why are the convicted allowed to live so long on death row? Why should the public pay to keep these wretched excuses for human beings alive long after they have exhausted their rightful appeals?
posted by owillis at 7:55 PM on March 18, 2000

"Quite a groundswell of protest is mounting against this. The matter seems to be equally offending to both pro and anti death sentence folks." If you're gonna make a statement like this, which is being presented as "fact", maybe you link to the article(s) you got it from. Seems like the original posting is more personal and emotional than it is factual. I visited the "distasteful ad campaign" and all I saw was a well done collection of interviews of death row inmates. What's wrong with that - it's just about real people with real stories - it amazes me how just the act of showing pictures of death row inmates and interviewing them pushes so many emotional triggers. Whether you for or against the death penalty, are you so thin-skinned that you can't take a little dose of reality without reading so much into it?
posted by jenett at 9:53 PM on March 18, 2000

Well, not being thin skinned, or prone to misrepresent facts. Please note that the original post links the articles that I did get it from, if you want evidence of protest. Simple type "Benetton Lawsuit" into Google and you'll find the evidence of what you are asking for.

As for the interviews and thier content, I liked them too. The point is not the material themselves, just the way in which they are being used. Murderers should not sell clothing... Yes, indeed I think that's simply not realistic, decent, or moral. Nothing to do with reality at all.

Finally, whether or not this seems as if it is emotional and/or personal to me is probably best decided by me, not you.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 6:31 AM on March 19, 2000

It's a sad state of affairs when you rely on corporations to act as society's conscience. On the positive side it does generate discussion on an important issue, but do you think Benetton really cares? To them these issues are throwaway, yesterday it was IRA car bombs and Christ-like aids patients. Today it's death row inmates. I'm sure they will think of something equally controversial in the future. Their sole aim is to generate publicity and increase sales and I am uneasy about this sort of manipulative advertising.
posted by echelon at 7:06 AM on March 19, 2000

Thanks for the evidence, Dean. After reading the articles, what I learned is that there is protest (in the form of lawsuits) and that those who object to the ad campaign appear to be proponents of the death penalty. So, I still think using words like "groundswell" and phrases like "equally offending to both pro and anti death sentence folks" are mistatements of fact - exaggeration is one of those tell-tale signs of emotionalism. I was prepared to "stand corrected" if the evidence showed otherwise. Though I admit that the ad campaign may be "distasteful" as you say, I still don't think it's the big deal you make out of it. Nothing personal...
posted by jenett at 9:23 AM on March 19, 2000

Ah, okay. I really do research before I post. Again, I feel compelled to defend myself. I am really not predisposed to mistate facts or exaggerate.

The reason I said that both anti and pro death penalty folks are mad about this is largely due to the amount of conversation that has been generated by the widely know anti-death penalty group Abolish. Here is thier original post They have marshalled several boycotts, protests, and were influencial in Sears decision to pull the products.

Not enough? Okay:

* Click over to Parents of Murdered Children who call for a boycott among other actions.

* There is a nice piece over at the Star-Telegram that tells of a great deal of protest from a number of groups that are both pro and anti death penalty as well as consumer and victims rights groups.

* Parents protested the New York Benetton store read the article there, it's a pretty good one.

* Probably best to check it out for yourself though...

Finally, the big deal that you speak of is the amount of good and meaningful dialog that this has generated, such as that between ourselves here... and this is a weblog, not a place for deep personal, social, and moral discussion. So, I'm sorry if I have offended anyone here, but it's good to see the discussion anyway.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 10:33 AM on March 19, 2000

I have no wish to express an opinion on this subject, but I thought I'd comment on the name of the group "Parents of Murdered Children". A group can name itself anything it wants, and usually no attempt is made to filter members of the group. Is there any reason to believe that the majority (or even a significant minority) of the members actually have had children murdered?

By way of an example, the "Union of Concerned Scientists" (a luddite group) has precious few actual scientists in its membership; it consists primarily of new-age anti-nuke activists and other anti-technology freaks.

I rarely give the names of these groups any credence; they're usually chosen for propaganda value.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:13 AM on March 19, 2000

The issue at hand here for me is not really the "controversial" nature of the ads at all. I do think it's great that people are discussing the issue of Capital's always a good thing when people discuss amongst themselves. However, as eschelon put it so well, "It's a sad state of affairs when you rely on corporations to act as society's conscience." The persona of the Benetton corporation is a persona like any other corporations. And while I tend to fall in line with a lot of what "the company stands for", or against, it's still just a company trying to get its name out into the general population's consciousness.

What really gets me about this discussion is that it remind me what it is that drives me nuts about television news. (there's a mouthful) Aside from all the obvious televisual criticism associated with the news, what really gets me going is when the latest news piece becomes the latest conversational piece. Why must we lean on other people/corporations to generate discussion for us? Course, I'm just as guilty as the next person....
posted by Ms Snit at 8:00 PM on March 19, 2000

What I think is distasteful about this campaign is Benetton's exploitation of the prisoners and, ultimately, the prisoners victims just to sell a few jumpers.

I hate advertising and the sickening way it invades every part of our lives, even prisons. I hate the way smug advertising execs think they can sum up the whole range of human experience and then stick it on the front of a t-shirt.

Bennetton don't give a shit what you or anyone else thinks about the death penalty. When you buy their clothes you make them rich and that's the bottom line.
posted by dodgygeezer at 5:00 AM on March 20, 2000

« Older   |   One of the worst economic miscalculations of all... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments