Young people coming of age today will long be defined by the economic tumult that’s gripping the global economy. Conventional wisdom says that record unemployment in many Western nations means that for the first time in modern history this current generation of young adults will be less prosperous than their parents, which has led many to the streets in protest.
Rather than play into the negative stereotypes of young people being lazy and unmotivated, United Colors of Benetton has chosen to highlight today’s unemployed youth not as the workers they’re not, but rather as the future entrepreneurs they could be in its follow-up to last year’s inflammatory and highly successful "Unhate" campaign.
The "Unemployee of the Year" initiative calls attention to the legacy that previous generations have left and reflects on the difficulties young people have in finding jobs. Created by Benetton’s in-house agency FABRICA in partnership with Amsterdam agency 72andSunny, it features a powerful spot that is more muted than Unhate’s provocative images of world leaders in unlikely lip-locks, but manages to be incendiary in its pairing of statements of professional achievement ("for standing tall in the face of adversity; for always going above and beyond the call of duty") with images of youth struggling to find work and protesting their misfortunes. Meanwhile, the print elements position under-30s as ambitious, suit-wearing "unemployees," which is meant to draw people to the centerpiece of the effort: a competition that will award 5,000 euros to 100 inspired but out-of-work young people to help fund a project they’re passionate about.
The competition, taking place at Unhatefoundation.org under the direction of Benetton’s Unhate Foundation, invites young people to create an un-work-experience CV and submit their socially conscious ideas, which will then be voted on by the Unemployee community. 72andSunny ECD Carlo Cavallone says that Benetton will have no control over which project gets chosen. "The thing that’s different from something like Kickstarter is that only the entrants themselves can judge. It’s a good experiment to see what young people care about."
Cavallone says the requirement to submit projects with a sense of social responsibility rather than straightforward entrepreneurial businesses is in keeping with Benetton’s brand legacy. "Benetton sees itself as a brand that needs to tackle social issues. I don’t think they see themselves just as a fashion brand—they’ve always had a point of view. They are never generic and they’ve been like that since the beginning," he says, adding, "We wanted to give more depth to Benetton’s action. Last time, people loved or hated the campaign but this time we wanted to touch a nerve and this is an issue that as a company Benetton can do something about."
Winners of the competition, which is running in 35 countries and in partnership with MTV, will be announced on Oct. 30.