NEW YORK — Benetton, known for its politically charged, sometimes offensive, yet always provocative advertising, has launched a $16 million campaign called “Food for Life.” It focuses on victims of war, poverty, drought and disease and how hunger is at the root of these global problems.

The campaign, codeveloped by United Colors of Benetton and the World Food Programme, the United Nations frontline agency in the fight against global hunger, was launched last week in Paris.

This story first appeared in the February 21, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The photography is by James Mollison, of Fabrica, Benetton’s communication research center. It was shot in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Some photos are hard to take, such as victims of rebel warriors in Sierra Leone — a mother, whose legs were cut off, or a man with a mutilated arm, whose metal prosthesis is a spoon. The photos, accompanied by the personal accounts of people escaping violence and death, will appear on billboards and newspapers around the world, as well as in a special Benetton supplement, and a book entitled 2398 g, which refers to the weight of the book itself.

In the Nineties, Benetton pushed the limits of advertising with such photos as a dying AIDS activist, animal sex, and a nun and priest kissing. The 2003 campaign has a clear message: People are starving and need food. According to Benetton, every day, 24,000 people die of hunger, malnutrition and related diseases, and roughly 800 million around the world suffer from chronic hunger.

“The problem of hunger can be solved because the world produces enough food to feed everyone,” James T. Morris, WFP executive director, said in a statement. “Yet a person dies of hunger or its related causes every five seconds. As we see a surge in the numbers of people on the brink of starvation, we need to draw attention in every way we can to prevent this terrible tragedy from continuing. We hope this initiative will form the basis of a substantive public discussion about hunger and put it back at the top of the international agenda where it belongs.”

Luciano Benetton, chairman of Benetton, added: “We chose to work with WFP because we share their commitment and their tangible initiatives. We are supporting them — just as we have supported other humanitarian organizations in the past — with a campaign in which we believe absolutely because it encompasses a number of social issues — war, disease, marginalization — that we have addressed in our previous communication projects.”

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