United Colors of Benetton on how it moved from driving social awareness to social change

United Colors of Benetton is well known for its socially charged advertising campaigns, but the clothing brand has moved on from simply rolling out provocative posters and is focussing its efforts on driving real change, particularly when it comes to female empowerment.

Today the Italian brand is launching a new global gender equality campaign to chime with International Women’s Day (8 March), marking the first time Benetton has rolled out a global initiative based on a local campaign.

Called ‘United by Half’ the Indian market push debuted on Valentine’s Day seeking to promote greater equality for women within their relationships. The film depicts men and women as equal partners and shows couples who are unrestricted by social taboos, some of which are still common in India and other developing markets. So far the film has been viewed over 7.7 million times, with over 12 million people engaging on Benetton’s social and digital properties.

The film falls under a wider swathe of programmes at Benetton called the Women Empowerment Program, launched in 2015, which is a sustainability programme that address issues such as equal opportunities, quality education, healthcare and violence against women.

Speaking to The Drum, Benetton Gianluca Pastore, worldwide communication director, explained how Benetton is realising its aim to generate more than just social awareness and why the brand has the legitimacy to be prevalent in the space.

“Benetton has a long story generally with social awareness campaigns and social commitment, but we made a huge change by creating the Benetton Women Empowerment Programme. We made the decision to 100% focus our efforts and investment specifically on female empowerment and so we created a programme managed with a number of different agencies and bodies in 2015.

“In a couple of months from now we will present the first big project in Asia, so we [are] proving that a big social awareness campaign is not enough – what the brand believes is that social change is important and the reason why we have focussed on this particular programme is because we really believe that we can make a change.”

That project is the Sustainable Livelihood Project, which comprises a two-year calendar of initiatives aimed at empowering home-based female workers in Pakistan and women in the RMG (Ready Made Garments) sector in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, Benetton will support 5,000-6,000 women currently employed in the RMG sector through training courses that will help them strengthen their professional skills. The programme will also help women sign up for basic financial products at local banks, such as loans, insurances and savings accounts and start a dialogue with their employers aimed at increasing safety in the workplace and in its surroundings.

In Pakistan, around 1,500 women living in the manufacturing district of Sialkot will be supported, with priority given to the unemployed, those working at home or in the fields and those belonging to ethnic and religious minorities.

Off the back of the success of the ‘United by Half’ campaign in India, Pastore added that Benetton will now look to replicate the blueprint of launching local campaigns before taking them global in the future.

United by Half will roll out globally from today (6 March) across digital and social channels.

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