Missouri sues Benetton over ad

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The state of Missouri filed suit against apparel marketer Benetton, which featured photos of Missouri death row inmates in its current ad campaign. Attorney General Jay Nixon alleged that Benetton lied to Missouri Department of Corrections officials in seeking permission to photograph the inmates. Named in the suit were Benetton and its creative director, Oliviero Toscani, who photographed the campaign; copywriter Ken Shulman; and Speedy Rice, director of international relations for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "Clearly our prisons are not allowed for commercial endeavors and prison officials would have never allowed entry had they been told the truth about the project,'' said Mr. Nixon. The suit alleges the three men gained access to inmates by claiming they were working on a project for the NACDL and that Mr. Shulman, a contributor to Newsweek, presented himself as working for that magazine. A spokesman for Benetton USA said the campaign will continue. The campaign, featuring interviews and pictures of the inmates, broke as an insert in the February issue of Talk. Ads, created in-house, are currently running in fashion and lifestyle magazines and outdoor boards. In a statement, the company charged the attorney general was "inaccurate and politically motivated,'' and added "Benetton Group looks forward to challenging these charges and inaccuracies in court.''

Copyright February 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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