United Colors of Benetton would have never had the name and the image they have today without Oliviero Toscani’s photographic talent and creativity. The communication strategy they used is called “shockvertising”, which was implemented through their socially progressive ads and provocative ideas. But it seems that everything has its limits and Benetton decided to fire Oliviero Toscani over comments he made about the 2018 collapse, that had killed 43 people.

The brand and Luciano Benetton “completely disassociates itself from Mr. Toscani’s remarks,” the brand declared in their letter, while “renewing their sincere closeness to the families of the victims and to all those who have been involved in this terrible tragedy.”

Screams&Whispers looks back at Oliviero Toscani’s most controversial advertising campaigns.

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1. AIDS David Kirby

David Kirby was an American HIV/AIDS activist and he is at his deathbed. This photo, showing David Kirby dying, was taken by Thérèse Frare. The photograph was published in Life magazine’s November 1990 issue, where it is thought to be the “picture that changed the face of AIDS”. United Colors of Benetton used the image in a 1992 advertising campaign to help the image to reach a worldwide audience. In 2012, Frare told Life that David’s father Bill Kirby expressed the family’s feelings on the use of the picture by United Colors of Benetton when he told her “Listen, Therese. Benetton didn’t use us, or exploit us. We used them. Because of them, your photo was seen all over the world, and that’s exactly what David wanted.”

© S/S 1992, “AIDS – David Kirby”
Concept: Oliviero Toscani
Photo: Thérèse Frare
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