True Colors | Sojourners

True Colors

Child laborers, a human body stamped with an "HIV-positive" inscription, and a waterfowl stuck in an oil slick are three of the images used in controversial advertisements by the Italian clothing company, Benetton. These three in particular were recently banned from being displayed in Germany by a German appeals court that claimed the ads exploited suffering.

Kalle Lasn, editor of Adbusters magazine in Vancouver, British Columbia, agrees that Benetton's ads exploit solely for financial profit, yet he finds the decision by the German court outrageous. "[The ruling] plays into Benetton's hands," Lasn explained. "It just creates more notoriety for a company that already has more than its share."

Adbusters Media Foundation formed five years ago out of a movement to stop the timber industry from cutting down old-growth forests and the accompanying realization that the mass media are not democratic. The group has built a reputation for challenging the advertising schemes of major corporations, criticizing them for polluting people's minds and creating an excess of consumerism.

"On the rubble of the old media culture, we will build a new one with a non-commercial heart and soul," states part of the Adbusters Media Foundation credo. With the use of "anti-ads" and "uncommercials" (ads that serve as parodies), Adbusters creatively opposes unjust marketing practices. One of their spoofs on Benetton, showing a man with bulging eyes and money stuffed into his mouth, reads, "THE TRUE COLORS OF BENETTON." That pretty much says it all.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1995
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