Depending on whom you ask, Toscani’s odd fusion of commentary and commerce is either a clever form of social activism or blatant moral hypocrisy — arresting contemporary art as easy exploitation.
And as the "quirky", in-house creative director for the Benetton Group, Olivero Toscani has shattered every conventionally held idea regarding the role of advertising. Toscani was hired by Luciano Benetton to exclusively head the company's advertising campaign. Not an easy task. With over 7,000 Benetton stores in over 120 countries and meet an extremely specific communication goal: to produce international campaigns of global concern for global consumers. Thus, Toscani’s campaigns are international, homogeneous and characterized by universal themes. According to Benetton, the advertising has become "not only a means of communication but an expression of our time."
Welcome to Toscani's world.
Toscani's early work presented youthful images from culturally diverse nations. Colourfully dressed in Benetton attire, engaged in a variety of playful acts. By linking the varying colours in the collection to the diverse "colours" of its world customers, Toscani presented a theme of racial harmony and world peace. From these ads grew the inspirational trademark still used today: "United Colours of Benetton."
Toscani assumed a strategy in which social issues played the major role - allowing for a communication on themes relevant to everyone, everywhere. A means to draw attention to important social problems, in an attempt to promote a discussion about issues which people would normally glide over if they approached them from other channels, issues they feel should be more widely talked about.