While most fashion brands use sexy models to sell their clothes, Benetton Group's Benetton USA Corp. is known for its not-so-pretty, controversial advertising that depicts the likes of a frail man with AIDS and death row inmates.
This 1984 Benetton ad features two men kissing a third on the cheek, and contains the multi-ehtnic theme that Benetton is now well known for.
Despite the fashion industry's omnipresent use of sex to sell its merchandise – often "forgetting" to include the very clothing they're trying to sell – few have actually used overtly gay imagery. Designers including Calvin Klein, Gucci, Versace, Abercrombie & Fitch and even Benetton itself have only teased consumers with gay vague imagery.
Benetton also ran a TV ad in 1995 with openly lesbian model Jenny Shimizu, with tattoos and short hair. She talks about the dress "that you love more than your boyfriend – but let's not get started on that."
As Benetton spokesman Mark Major explains, ad director Oliviero Toscani likes to challenge consumers with his advertising. "His agenda is to push people's thinking. He feels the way sex is a taboo subject in the US is hypocritical and that we're our own worst enemy. Why do we tell children babies come from a stork?"