Real Email Promo Sent by Ad Agency: “Benetton & UN Create Illegal Immigrant Candidate for Governor of Arizona”

This story starts when the main Latino Rebels account received an email from someone at 72andSunny, “a full service, modern communications company, recently named ‘Agency of the Year’ by Advertising Age,” according to the agency’s website. The subject line to the email read: “Benetton & UN Create Illegal Immigrant Candidate for Governor of Arizona.”

At first we all thought it was a joke, but when we opened the email and began to read it, we sadly knew it wasn’t. Here is part of the initial email we received:

Hi there Rebels,

Meet Juanito. He’s a model citizen, he works hard to support his family, he believes in equal rights for everybody and he wants to run for governor. There’s only one little thing—he’s an illegal immigrant.

Juanito’s campaign launches in earnest in Arizona tomorrow. It’s got all the usual facets –

A campaign website: http://juanito2014.com/

A campaign film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoI6tAjLAVc

Even an official twitter feed: https://twitter.com/VoteJuanito2014

We stopped for a second. This COULD NOT be real. So we checked out the video (which already had 111 views):

And the Facebook page (which had zero likes):

juanito

Then we checked out the Twitter page (which had tweeted only four times but had over 10,000 followers):

Juanito99

What was going on? So we kept reading:

We’ve even got people on the ground spreading lawns signs and bumper stickers.

However, it’s not quite what it seems.

Juanito’s story is part of UNHATE News, an initiative by Benetton’s UNHATE Foundation, sharing news stories that we would like to see. Although primarily about raising awareness, this fantasy could have a very real impact on reality: the project is in association with the United Nations’ Department of Public Information, so voting for Juanito counts – the UN have committed to support initiatives around key social issues like immigration.

When we visited UNHATE News, we were expecting to see similar bizarre campaigns to Juanito 2004, but instead we actually saw some very clever headlines, but with very little content. For example, “US-MEXICO BORDER TURNED INTO GIANT ART CANVAS” or “ARIZONA PRINTS SPECIAL EDITION DOLLARS IN HONOR OF IMMIGRANTS”. We even saw this: “US RELEASES MONUMENT OF DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE IN SPANISH”, which, by the way, we did a few years ago. Also, the UNHATE campaign was genius when it did this.

But Juanito 2014 doesn’t even come close to those ideas. (By the way, the campaign is already live.)

Enjoy this new image:

10_Juanito-Shoot-7882

And this one:

1_Juanito-Shoot

So let’s get this straight: the United Nations and Benetton are involved in this campaign? Someone who works for the UN approved this? The United Nations? This is how you try to raise awareness about immigration, with a cheap attempt at bad satire? And ready for the kicker? The agency sent us the email to see if we could partner with them. Our official response?

In all seriousness, if the idea were actually clever, we could see some potential. Yes, using satire and humor is a good choice, but Juanito 2014 fails on so many levels, where do we begin?

We share a few reasons below, besides the most obvious and important one: A campaign approved by the UN and developed by an ad agency has no problem tossing the label “illegal immigrant” when actively promoting a campaign that is supposed to change the narrative about hate, not perpetuate the same stereotypes it wants to eradicate. Does the UN not know that “no human being is illegal?”

Why Juanito 2014 Gets a Huge #NoMames

  1. The guy’s name is “Juanito?” Is he 8 years old?
  2. Oh yeah, Juanito is Mexican. Of course, he is.
  3. Gee, the red, green and white colors are suggesting what? Why not some US of A flags? See point 2.
  4. Hey, the video has silly Mexican-themed music, because you know. See point 2.
  5. The motif of the “worker” immigrant has also become its own caricature of itself. The reality is that there are also many academics, students, and entrepreneurs who are making valuable contributions to the US every day. Immigrants are not all “worker bees.”
  6. What is so funny about “covered faces?” Is Juanito literally “living in the shadows?” Undocupower has inspired people to speak out, and on the same day activists were protesting (again) about record deportations, a hip ad agency with no clear idea about immigration asked us to help them on one of the dumbest campaigns we have ever seen. The undocumented aren’t hiding any longer, so why would Juanito (geez, his name is Juanito) hide his face?
  7. Good satire uses actual intelligence and depth to gets its point across. We cringe at the thought of how this creative session to get to his Juanito campaign evolved. Imagine the convos.
  8. The focus is on the “illegal” language. Yeah, we had to say it again. The campaign, if it truly wanted to raise awareness about immigration, should be taking on the broken system, the wide-spread exploitation and the lack of government action to protect migrants’ human rights, not dehumanizing migrants.

Our founder did write back to the agency, by the way. Here is what he said:

…was the purpose you reached out to us b/c you wanted us to slam this? I know other stories from this campaign and the vast majority of them are so well-done. This one you just shared has left us a bit disappointed and speechless. We don’t know where to start as to how is misses the mark. If we do write about it, we plan to be pretty brutal about how much this campaign does very little to advance the message of immigrant rights and instead relies on some very offensive stereotypes to achieve that. I shared it with our group and the last thing we would want to do is associate our name as a supporter of this campaign, so that is why I ask: did you send this to us because you need publicity, any kind of publicity for this campaign, whether it is negative or positive?

I don’t know where to start about this campaign so unless you are pulling my leg (I kind of wish that you are), we will officially pass. But congratulations on earning a potential #NoMames for this. FYI, I do have a few questions: How did you get so many Twitter followers with just five tweets? Did your agency develop this campaign and who can I speak to for a comment on this? Did the United Nations actually approve this content?

We got a reply saying that it was not the agency’s intention to “cause offence” or “incite criticism for the campaign.” The person from 72 and Sunny who emailed us was just doing his job, and he thought that LR would be a group interested in promoting the campaign. The person who wrote the email offered to get more answers for us.

So our founder wrote back:

If you don’t mind getting some more comment about this specific campaign, that would be great. We will be running a story, and I will be very frank with you: it will not be complimentary. Hopefully someone can answer our questions. There are so many problems with this specific campaign, I don’t know where to start.

Thanks again for responding!

We guess the agency didn’t conduct its due diligence about whom they should have contacted. Here’s hoping they reply to us with more details and even consider: 1) canning the campaign right now and 2) apologizing on behalf of the UN. And Benetton, too. We’re still shaking our heads.

By the way, 72 and Sunny was named Ad Week’s 2013 Agency of the Year. Of course it did.

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