Benetton: the brand that challenged stereotypes before it was cool, has still got it

Benetton: the brand that challenged stereotypes before it was cool, has still got it

The brand responsible for one of the most complained about adverts of all time, Benetton, is revisiting one of its infamous slogans as part of a reinvention, which feels earnt, and familiar in the right way.

Italian fashion brand Benetton’s latest ad campaign, which debuted in India and was directed by Giampaolo Sgura with creative direction by Andrea Incontri, features the phrase “Be Family”, repeated several times by people hailing from traditional and less traditional family units.

The cast, which champions families of various ages, sexualities, and cultural backgrounds, is shot in a meta fashion, and showcases Benetton’s Spring/Summer 2024 collection (more on that later).

On the surface, the advert is an upbeat, socially aware, but not deeply subversive offering by the brand’s standards. However its context is worth noting.

Benetton’s provocative history

Benetton is renowned for its daring and often controversial advertisements, which have pushed boundaries, sparked conversations, and left a lasting impression on the culture. One of its most memorable and contentious ads was the “Be Family” campaign, which this latest campaign references directly.

The advert aired in 1991 when Benetton released an image that stirred both admiration and outrage. It featured a newborn baby, Giusy, still attached to her umbilical cord and smeared with blood.

Embed from Getty Images

The photograph was raw, intimate, and unapologetically real.

It captured the vulnerability and beauty of the first moments of life.

Some viewers saw it as a celebration of life, emphasising the natural process of childbirth. Others, however, found it shocking and unsettling.

The “Be Family” ad became one of the most complained-about in the history of advertising. It ignited debates about ethics, boundaries, and the role of commercial brands in addressing sensitive topics.

Benetton defended their choice, arguing that they were using their platform to raise awareness and provoke thought. They believed that art and commerce could coexist, even in the context of such a powerful image.


Benetton’s latest advert shows that society has moved on and more readily embraces non-traditional themes. But fashion continues to be a canvas for social commentary.

From a brand perspective, Benetton’s latest ad, ignoring the political context, is a reminder that the brand has a powerful visual USP. The new collection showcases its famous bold colours and emphasis on detail and quality. It nods to its 90s heyday, yet adds something of the zeitgeist too.

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