Benetton Group, David Kirby - A 'Pieta'


By far the most controversial ad from an already controversial advertiser, this ad depicting AIDS activist David Kirby surrounded by his family on his death bed was published in LIFE magazine, and brought strong reactions worldwide.

Benetton says Kirby's parents gave "permission and encouragement" to create the ad.

According to Benetton, "In some countries such as Paraguay this was the very first campaign to talk about AIDS, and in many countries it was the first campaign to go beyond purely preventative measures and touch upon subjects such as solidarity with AIDS patients."

The ad was part of a sustained campaign about AIDS and safer sex that began in 1991 with a colorful picture of condoms and the distribution of condoms in Benetton stores.

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User Comments
I have to say that I find the site a wonderful and constructive dissection of the representation of gays/lesbians in media. I must confess to being pretty unaware of the subject matter, having not seen many of the ads before but the moment I looked at this David Kirby/Benetton spot, I was filled with tears. What a powerful and truly dreadful image -- one that millions have been able to ignore by simply remaining ignorant of the ravages of AIDS. I must agree with why this falls under the negative category as it certain does not portray anything of happiness or joy. I must say though, that I feel more people should know just what destruction and anguish this disease can bring into the lives of those we love, whether they be homosexual or not. My kudos on a wonderful and informative site!

Anthony St.
I would challenge the notion that this belongs in the negative catagory. Firstly, the intensly religious subtext is clearly designed to shake up religious fundamentalist predjudices, and second, David Kirby's family clearly loves him. You've not looked beyond your own discomfort with an image or depiction to see it for how positive it really is.

Geoff Coupe
This image has remained with me since I first saw it in 1992. It is extremely powerful. However, despite the protestations by the Benetton company that it was used to promote a message about safe sex, the lasting impression is that it was cynical exploitation in order to promote the brand name of the company. I have never bought any of Benetton's products since that time.

Ahhhh my old friends at Benneton! The folks who brought you a campaign for clothing using serial killers for models, who tart up people's ethnic dress to sell more clothes made by starving people in sweatshops to rich people. There's a specific circle in hell for Benneton marketers I'm sure.

This is a blatant exploitation ad typical of the cynical bastards at Benetton that produced the dying man advert. BUT then you remember the name don't you -- so they have unfortunately succeeded.

It's pure genius. Totally reversing conventional religion, demanding that straight society practice the values it proports to espouse.