When does a good concept make a bad ad?

One of these ads is good. The other one is bad. Why?

Pope and ImamThe concept is classic Benetton: shocking and iconic. This time it’s about clashing cultures. The first execution – the Pope kissing a Muslim cleric – is shocking in the right way, because it’s got a message: two religions not noted for their, er, *tolerance of alternative lifestyles* coming together in a liplock.

Fair enough. Even if you recognise the individuals, this isn’t an ad about two men; it’s about two belief systems coming together, and that’s a reasonable subject for an ad campaign.

(Actually, since both believe in supernatural beings it’s really only one belief system, but we’ll let that pass.)

The second ad, however – featuring Hu Jintao and Barack Obama – isn’t a good ad. Because this time, the execution isn’t about a clash of cultures, however different China and the US may be. It’s now just an ad about two straight men having a gay kiss, no more shocking than party lesbians in the West End on a Saturday night. (Well, OK, just a bit more shocking.)

And the message is lost, overshadowed by the actors.

Just goes to show: a campaign concept can so easily be obscured if you don’t get the execution exactly right.

In a display of the same intolerance both religions display towards gay men in real life, the Pope/Imam execution’s apparently been withdrawn after complaints.  (Benetton won’t mind; nothing builds a brand like having your ad campaign in the headlines.) While the politicians can continue slurping away, although I’m surprised Chavez the Chavster hasn’t said anything yet…