The two images unveiled in Milan featured Barack Obama and Hu Jintao, the leader of China, and another featured French president, Nicolas Sarkozy with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.
The third advert was revealed in Rome and features the controversial image of Pope Benedict XVI with Egyptian imam Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb.
Benetton stated: “These are symbolic images of reconciliation – with a touch of ironic hope and constructive provocation – to stimulate reflection on how politics, faith and ideas, even when they are divergent and mutually opposed, must still lead to a dialogue and meditations.”
One of the images featuring the Pope has been condemned by the Vatican. Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokesman said: “This shows a grave lack of respect for the Pope, an offence to the feelings of believers, a clear demonstration of how publicity can violate the basic rules of respect for people”.
Alessandro Benetton, deputy head of the company said: “The central theme is the kiss, the most universal symbol of love, between world political and religious leaders.”
Benetton has become very well known for its controversial advertising campaigns such as the famous image of David Kirby dying of AIDS in 1990.