Toscani Hypes Himself into WHO Anti-Smoking Ad Role

08 April 2002

Photographer, adman and skilled self-publicist Olivero Toscani has moved on from his controversy-courting campaigns for global fashion manufacturer Benetton.

Instead of touting the ephemera of fashion via the medium of outrage, he will assault the planet’s tobacco manufacturers on behalf of the Geneva-based World Health Organization – a $2.5 million (€2.85m; £1.74m) assignment into which Toscani hyped his way with a virtuoso performance at the WHO annual conference last month.

Posing beneath a giant ‘Smoker's Body Profile’ poster, previously aired in Benetton's Colors magazine, he told his audience that “the Nazis were amateurs” compared with today’s tobacco companies. The Toscani-designed poster illustrated the body of a smoker and the various diseases from cancer to halitosis that smoking inflicts. He generously offered use of this masterpiece to the WHO.

Faced with an offer it could not refuse, the WHO will run the poster prominently in its upcoming campaign. This is expected to launch as a pilot project in May across four or five nations on different continents, before rolling out to some thirty countries by October.

After eighteen years of successfully lining the pockets of Benetton [and, presumably, his own] with campaigns purporting social awareness, Toscani was fired as creative director almost two years ago after going a bridge too far. His ‘Death Row’ ads triggered a lawsuit in the United States, where the controversy drove many retailers into refusing to stock Benetton gear.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff