Advertising Law

Vatican Plans Legal Action over Benetton's Faked Ad Showing Pope Lip Kissing Cleric

Benetton’s new “Unhate” ad campaign showing photoshopped pictures of world leaders smooching each other on the lips has managed to generate lots of free publicity—as well as legal action.

The Vatican has announced it will take “proper legal measures” to stop publication of a photo of the Pope kissing an Egyptian cleric, including photos that are used in the media, BBC News reports. Benetton has already agreed to pull the ad, and it’s not clear if the Vatican will sue Benetton directly, the story says. The Belfast Telegraph has the photo. Fox News and USA Today also have stories.

Other ads show President Obama kissing Chinese President Hu Jintao and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kissing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. A White House spokesman has also criticized the ads.

USA Today interviewed lawyer Doug Wood before the Vatican announced its legal action. He said celebrities often sue over misuse of their likeness, but politicians tend to avoid suits. Instead they ask that the ads be stopped. Wood is identified in an online biography as a Reed Smith partner in New York City who leads the firm’s media and entertainment industry group.

Benetton has said the photos are promoting a message and they have no commercial purpose, USA Today says.

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