Clothing giant United Color of Benetton is catching a bit of flack for its “Unhate” ad campaign featuring some of the most powerful people in the world…kissing.

The campaign—which the company said aims to “combat the culture of hatred in all its forms”—features a photoshopped image of President Obama locking lips with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and China’s Hu Jintao. The “Unhate” campaign also features Pope Benedict XVI kissing Egyptian Imam Ahmed el Tayyeb, France’s Nicholas Sarkozy smooching Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, and many others.

After the images were released, the Vatican immediately condemned the campaign. “This is a grave lack of respect for the Pope,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement. Lombardi continued, saying the ad was “a clear example of how advertising can violate elementary rules of respect for people in order to attract attention through provocation.”

But the company is undaunted by the outrage. Although the company released an apology, saying it never meant to “offend the sensibilities of the faithful,” and have pulled the image of the Pope and Imam, they are no stranger to controversy. In the past the United Colors of Benetton created ads depicting a man dying with AIDS, a black woman breastfeeding a white baby, and two horses—one black and one white—mating.

What do you think? Are the ads smart or do they cross the line? 

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