When Politicians Make Love: The UN-Hate Ad Campaign
The human condition, that is, what it is to be human and how that experience can be collectively understood and articulated is an absolute mystery. In the interest of persuading people, using ploys that appeal to elements of the human condition that can be identified are arguably the most effective ways to achieve success. Advertisements are a means by which a particular interest group or organization, among others, use to communicate messages varying on a spectrum that extends from underwear to ending world hunger, to promoting religion, to practical jokes. Clearly, like all creative endeavors, some advertisements are incredibly successful while others fail. There are particular reasons why some advertisements are exceptionally successful. The 2011 UN-Hate campaign, started by the Benetton Group, has a series of controversial advertisements that are, for all intents and purposes, rather successful at communicating a number of ideas in a single image. Analyzing the qualities of one particular ad from the UN-Hate campaign featuring a digitally augmented photograph of President Obama kissing the Chinese leader Hu Jintao in a homo-erotic fashion, it can be determined why the advertisement is successful and if anyone in particular, who the general target audience is.
The UN-Hatecampaign's image of President Obama and Hu Jintao locking lips in what appears to be an incredibly passionate embrace. If they were not public figures, seeing the image, one would assume that they are actually in a romantic relationship, perhaps even at the climactic moments of a marriage or commitment ceremony. However, the reality is that the ad is of famous public figures, arguably the most famous, being the leaders of the worlds leading economic super powers. The image is actually several images compiled and manipulated using computer software to create a final product with a host of inherent implications when used as an ad. On the left side of the image Jintao stands strong, very close to Obama. Both of their eyes are closed, and Jinto appears taller than Obama, and slightly appears to be more dominate. Jintao is wearing a blue suit and a maroon tie. Obama wears a black suit with a multicolored striped tie. In the top left corner on ending on the tip of Jintao's perfectly combed hair, is theUN-Hatecampaign's logo. In the bottom corners, near the images of both men, there is a small print note about who each is, stating their titles. There is another logo from the Benetton Group on the lower right side of the image that says “United Colors of Benetton” and a caption stating that they are supporters of the UN-Hate Foundation. The background, behind the public figures is blurred but there are colors that suggest an American flag was present in one of the photographs used to compile the ad.
There are a number of arguments that are being made from the image. The image has a dual capability of appealing to the logic and emotion simultaneously. This is because of its messages and the nature of the issues. For instance, it clearly has anti-homophobia messages. The image is displaying two males, in particular, powerful ones, embracing in a lip to lip kiss. This image sends shock-waves throughout the world because it is causing its viewer to imagine a world that is dominated by open homosexuals. To some people this is not an issue to be so concerned about, but to the conservative world. Considering that the UN-Hate Foundation's project goal is to “seek to contribute to the creation of a new culture of tolerance,” they are successful. It is successful because the ad prompts the view to question why the image so shocking. An assumption being made about the viewer is that they are not entirely approving or comfortable with the image of two men kissing, otherwise the image would serve no purpose.
Another implication of the advertisement is purely political. Because the image is of President of the United States, Barack Obama and the national leader of China Hu Jintao, there is a clearly political statement being made. What exactly is that statement is up for argument. Is the image suggesting that the economic relationship of China and the United States is too close for comfort? Perhaps it is suggesting that the countries need to become closer socially. The exact answer is not clear which could be a deliberate ploy by the UN-Hate campaign designers. Also, the faded background image clearly has the colors red, white, and blue, perhaps suggesting that the viewer should not distinguish between nations, that maybe patriotism is a purely divisive phenomenon. So assuming that one of the mentioned reasons are the meaning of the campaign, there are assumptions being made about the view. One assumption must be that the viewer has some political stance on the relationship between nations, or at least some idea about how it should or should not be.
Because the image features two individuals of different ethnicity and culture, the image is making a sociological statement. The image is stating that people of different cultures and races should embrace passionately. The assumptions about the viewer is that they possibly see an issue with two races and culture embracing. The image is particularly successful because it features the leader of a Communist country and a Capitalistic country. Because Americans have a distinctly anti-communism ideology in the popular culture, it is energizing to see an image of these two men embracing, perhaps defying the dictations of their politics.
The language of the ad is very brief and does not provide very much barring on the messages of the image with exception to the boldly printed UN-Hatelogo. The language suggests to the reader that it is critical not to disapprove of people or situations inherently because of ignorance. The image is clearly dramatized, with an emphasis on exaggeration to make particular statements. So there is not a need for very much to written because the image stands on its own merit, guided by the UN-Hate logo.
The UN-Hate ad is particularly successful because it covers so much social ground in a brief, easily conceptualized image. The image appeals to logic because it prompts the reader to assess the reasons behind the image. It appeals to emotion because it elicits very strong emotional responses in people because of the combination of politics, love, and social norms. The most effective strategy of this image is the comprehensive and inclusive qualities. The image is not tied to a particular meaning, but several, and that’s what makes it so successful.
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