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Creative

Switched On: Benetton Illuminates Contraception with UN Population Fund

Promoting family planning with the UNFPA through the Power Her Choices campaign, writes Alex Reeves

Switched On: Benetton Illuminates Contraception with UN Population Fund

Benetton have used their reputation as one of the world’s most provocative marketers to take on many injustices over the decades. This time they’re focusing their efforts on the lack of family planning choices available to women and girls around the world. At today’s London Summit on Family Planning they will launch Power Her Choices, a global campaign to protect women from unintended pregnancies.

More than 214 million women lack access to modern contraceptives. In 2016, an estimated  770,000 girls from 10 to 14 years old became mothers, a situation that drastically limits their options. “This is not only a problem for them, but for society as a whole,” says Carlo Tunioli, CEO of Fabrica, Benetton’s communication research centre. For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa up to 25% of young women drop out of school because of unintended pregnancies. 

“No school means no qualified work and no economic independence,  with devastating effects on the local economies,” he says. “Protecting a woman’s sexual and reproductive rights is one of the most effective ways to empower her to shape her own life, make families healthier and lift entire countries out of poverty.”

That’s why the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has been fighting for almost 50 years to create a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

Benetton’s campaign, conceived by Fabrica, centres around an arresting image of a light bulb in the shape of a womb. “It’s a metaphor of how the work of UNFPA can help spark a new awareness in young women worldwide,” says Carlo.


The campaign also includes a light installation at the summit, in which lit bulbs form phrases that capture the campaign’s spirit. One of the flashing phrases appears to read: “I am pregnant”. However, as a viewer approaches the installation, more light bulbs flicker and turn on, showing additional words that reveal the underlying message: “I am not ready to be pregnant”.

The Italian fashion brand is known for taking part in social issues for over 50 years and they’ve been involved in reproductive rights specifically for quite a while too. “Think of the giant condom that we unrolled in 1993 on the obelisk of Place de la Concorde, in Paris,” says Carlo. “That time, it was a way to raise awareness about AIDS. This time it’s about women’s freedom to decide their future.”

Fabrica has developed a relationship with UNFPA over the past year to make sure they understand the complexities of this issue. “It was definitely a back-and-forth process,” says Karen Oetling from Fabrica’s Social Campaign Team. There was a lot to consider. “On one side the topic itself, Family Planning, is really broad and implicates many different aspects that go from contraceptives, to health services, education and so on. On the other side, our concern often is that so much has been made and how often campaigns with social topics tend to go for sadness in order to create an emotion or even make you feel sorry about something. We wanted to twist it, so the different phrases represent the different aspects or the complexity of Family Planning; while the visual style is more modern and dynamic, we wanted it to be empowering.”


The idea all started with the messaging, says Karen, “this series of phrases that are [made up of] two parts, where the ‘decision making’ part of it is off, and then it turns on and changes the meaning of the phrase. The bulb came afterwards, as the execution to translate this messaging, with the flickering as a metaphor for this voice to come out. We found the shape of the uterus in an old light bulb, which matched perfectly to the core of a woman’s body where pregnancy, wanted or not, happens.”

The images they’ve created are arresting, and the hope is that they’ll encourage people to learn more about the extent of the work UNFPA do, listening to the stories of women that desperately need family planning to transform their lives. “It was important for us to keep a real element to the creativity,” says Karen, “and these stories and women are at the heart of UNFPA’s work. Hopefully it will make people look at a social issue that is not so well known and with little can make such a big difference.”

The campaign is an imperative: ‘Power her Choices’ is an order to all who come in contact with the work. And it’s got serious goals, as Carlo is keen to stress: “We hope that the campaign, alongside the summit, will help bringing together institutions and stakeholders to move towards the goal of enabling 120 million additional women and girls to use modern contraception by 2020. It’s only a spark, but through everybody’s contribution it could end up shedding a light on what needs to be done in order to grant reproductive rights worldwide.”

Genre: Fashion & Beauty