Otis College of Art and Design logo
  • Otis Fine Arts hosts a Visiting Artist lecture series featuring Oliver Payne, a Los Angeles-based artist. Read more about him here.
    Contact: Soo Kim, skim@otis.edu
  • Please join the Digital Media Department for a lecture by  Alina Chau.
    Chau is an Animator, Illustrator and Storyboard artist who has worked with Lucasfilm Animation, Technicolor Interactive Services, and Electronic Arts.  
    Alina Chau received her MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles. She spent over a decade working in the animation industry. Her most notable credit is on LucasFilm’s Emmy Award Winning program, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”
  • Kimberli Meyer trained as an architect and an artist, and has been the director of the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House in West Hollywood since 2002. She has initiated and curated many programs there, including the exhibitions How Many Billboards?

  • Industry Spotlight

    Oct 15| Special Event

    An advertising creative director for more than 25 years, Otis alumnus Josh Weltman was the Mad Men co-producer responsible for Don Draper's credibility as an advertising genius.

    Join us for a behind-the-scenes look at the hit series, plus hear key insights from Weltman's new book Seducing Strangers: How to Get People to Buy What You're Selling.

  • Otis Fine Arts hosts a Visiting Artist lecture series featuring Yutaka Makino. He lives and works in Berlin.  Read more about him here.
    Contact: Soo Kim, skim@otis.edu
  • Susan Choi’s first novel, The Foreign Student, won the Asian-American Literary Award for fiction, and her second novel, American Woman, was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize. Her most recent novel, A Person of Interest, was a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award. With David Remnick she co-edited the anthology Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker. A recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation, and in 2010, the inaugural winner of the PEN/W.G. Sebald Award, Choi lives in Brooklyn.

  • Joe Sola (‘99)’s work has been exhibited internationally in galleries and museums including: The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Hammer Museum, The Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Andy Warhol Museum  and Kunsthaus Gras, Austria, Museum of Modern Art Jean-Duc, Luxembourg. Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City.  His performances have taken place at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, MOT International in London, 356 Mission Rd, Los Angeles.


How to Clarify Your Topic

NOTE: Although the principles of searching are still true, this guide has not been updated since 2000.

Before you begin a research project, you will need to clarify your search terms or concepts. Each project is completely different and will require critical thinking skills. Clarification is the first phase of a Search Strategy.

Suppose you are asked to write a paper about the semiotics of advertising. You think the Benetton ad campaigns are a possibility.

  • The term Benetton refers to a specific company.
  • The concept advertising can be searched using other terms, such as ads or advertisement. You could also narrow your topic by limiting your search to billboard, TV, or magazine ads.
  • The term semiotics is only used in very academic writing and you may not find it used in magazines or newspapers. You may choose not to use the term at all in your search, but use synonyms instead, like symbol or popular culture.

A first step might be to do some preliminary browsing in a periodical database in order to discover  how much has been published on the topic and what other terms have been used which related to your topic.

Study the following citations found in Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature and Lexis-Nexis. They were found by simply entering one term, Benetton, as a keyword. Notice the other terms or related topics which could be good alternative ideas for a paper on semiotics of advertising. Notice especially which terms are used in the subject fields.

TITLE: How colorful can ads get?.  (Benetton's United Colors campaign) 
SOURCE: Mother Jones v. 15 (Jan. '90) p. 52 IL 
ABSTRACT: A panel of staffers from Essence, a magazine for black women, recently rejected a Benetton advertisement that depicted a black woman nursing a white infant.  According to Essence president Clarence O. Smith, the image has a negative connotation in the United States because black American women were once forced to nurse white people's children while their own went hungry.  The ad has not appeared in the United States or the United Kingdom, but Benetton has used it in 77 other countries. 
SUBJECT: Benetton Spa 
Clothing industry - Advertising.
Blacks in advertising.

LIB benetton1

Image from the Benetton website.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
February 4, 2000, Friday, FIVE STAR LIFT EDITION
SECTION: NEWS, Pg. A1 LENGTH: 1248 words
BODY [lead paragraphs]: The ad campaign has outraged relatives of the murder victims; the clothing company says it is providing social commentary
   Benetton, the Italian fashion company known for its colorful knitwear and controversial sales pitches, is showcasing death row inmates from Missouri and 
Illinois as part of its latest $ 20 million advertising campaign. [Etc.]

LIB benetton2   LIB benetton2b

Images from the Benetton website

TITLE: Through the lenses of gender and ethnicity.  (Benetton's United Colors ad campaign criticized in Toronto's Globe and mail) 
SOURCE: Maclean's v. 104 (May 27 '91) p. 15 IL 
ABSTRACT: A recent column by Kate Taylor in the Toronto Globe and Mail about an ad campaign by the Benetton chain of clothing stores is utter nonsense.  Taylor criticizes ads that use photographs of children of different races wearing brightly colored Benetton clothes in the belief that the ads "trivialize issues of race" and that the campaign "ignores the complexities of  racial issues."  According to her, being colorblind in Canada is wrong.  She thinks that the ideal that people could love each other and not notice skin color is now too simplistic. If Taylor had her way, people would look at each other through the lenses of gender and ethnicity.  Although Canada is obsessed with color, ethnicity, and religion, the country should be colorblind when children pose in ads to sell sweaters. 
SUBJECT: Benetton Spa 
Globe and mail (Toronto, Ont.) 
Clothing industry - Advertising.
Blacks in advertising.
Canada  - Race relations.

LIB benetton3
Image from the Benetton website

TITLE: Fear and clothing in L.A.  (Benetton billboards showing firebombed car taken down during the riots) 
SOURCE: The Humanist v. 52 (Sept./Oct. '92) p. 45-6 
ABSTRACT: Just 2 days before the Los Angeles riots, Benetton billboards were erected in Los Angeles that showed an image of a firebombed car.  In response to the riots, the trendy clothing manufacturer decided to take down the billboards, an event that was documented by camera crews from CNN.  The exploding car ad, which was supposedly meant to signify the social issue of terrorism, was an offensive publicity stunt along the lines of a previous Benetton ad depicting a man dying from AIDS. These ad campaigns trivialize and exploit pressing social issues by reducing them to simplistic images that can be used to sell merchandise. 
SUBJECT: BenettonSpa
Terrorism in advertising.
Clothing industry - Advertising.
Los Angeles (Calif.)  - Riots, 1992 - Economic aspects.

LIB benetton4

Image from the Benetton website

TITLE: Shock value.  (Benetton's ad campaigns) 
SOURCE: New York v. 25 (Aug. 24 '92) p. 26+ IL 
ABSTRACT: Since 1983, few of Benetton's ads have escaped protest, but the company's new ads are not as pugnacious or risky as their predecessors.  The new ad campaign, which is the Italian clothing retailer's second campaign of the year, is still arresting.  According to Benetton creative director Oliviero Toscani, the new ads continue to feature strong images, but they are more ambiguous.  The subjects of the new campaign and past Benetton campaigns are discussed. 
SUBJECT: Benetton Spa 
Clothing industry - Advertising.

LIB benetton5

Image from the Benetton website

TITLE: Normally gay.  (Ikea's TV spots feature gay couple) 
SOURCE: New York v. 27 (Apr. 4 '94) p. 24+ IL 
ABSTRACT: The Ikea TV advertisement that features a gay couple is intelligent and human.  The spot depicts 2 men shopping for a dining room table as a symbol of their commitment to each other. Unlike print ads from Benetton and Banana Republic featuring gays, which aimed to shock, Ikea's ad is a casual reality bite. 
SUBJECT: IKEA Svenska Forsaljnings AB. 
Furniture stores - Advertising. 
Homosexuality in advertising.

LIB benetton6