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'Unemployee of the Year': Benetton ads look at unemployed youth

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United Colors of Benetton has a habit of launching controversial ads. Remember the campaign last year showing world leaders such as President Obama and the pope lip-locked with each other?

This time, the clothing brand is focusing on the unemployed – specifically those younger than 30.

Its newest ad campaign will feature portraits of suit-clad young people without jobs who also aren’t in school or training.

The company is also launching a competition dubbed “Unemployee of the Year,” inviting unemployed applicants ages 18 to 30 to submit proposals for projects to cause “concrete social impact in their community.”

The hope? To highlight a generation that believes “that being non-employed doesn’t mean being useless, lazy or an anarchist,” the company said in a statement.

The contest, put on by Benetton’s Unhate Foundation, will give 5,000 euros, or $6,526, to each of the 100 projects chosen by voters online. Pitches will be accepted through Oct. 14.

Some 75 million youths ages 15 through 24 worldwide are unemployed – a 12.7% rate, according to the International Labour Organization. The recession wiped out 2.7 million jobs for young American workers, according to a report earlier this summer.

Other major companies have gotten behind the job-boosting effort. Starbucks in June launched a new line of merchandise to raise money for its Create Jobs for USA fund.

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