A regional press ad for Barber Brown’s, a hairdressing salon, seen in the South West edition of the Metro on 21 February 2012 and 8 March 2012, featured an image depicting Jesus, bathed in light. Text statedHe is coming … Better get your hair done! Barber Browns UNISEX .
Two complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive to Christians. One of the complainants believed the ad implied that Jesus would judge people on their outward appearance and the other believed it was offensive to depict the Second Coming as humorous.
Barber Brown’s said that they had been using the ad for well over three years in various formats, including flyers that were available in a local church, and that they had received an overwhelmingly positive response, including being featured in an article in the national press. They said that it was not their intention to cause offence and they felt that their intentions had been misinterpreted. They said that the ad was meant to be humorous and different rather than offensive.
ASA Assessment: Complaints not upheld
The ASA noted that the ad featured a depiction of Jesus bathed in light and that the text appeared to make reference to the Second Coming. We acknowledged that some people might find the ad distasteful. However, we considered that most consumers would understand that it was a light-hearted take on the biblical story rather than a mockery of Christian belief. Because we considered that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, we concluded that it had not breached the Code.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code rule 4.1 (Harm and offence) but did not find it in breach.
Comment: Arbitrary Mediation of Religious Offence
See article from secularism.org.uk
The National Secular Society has accused the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of being inconsistent in dealing with complaints about ads using religious imagery after the watchdog cleared an advertisement for a barber’s shop that appeared to mock Jesus’ second coming but had previously banned adverts for ice cream featuring a pregnant nun and apparently gay priests.
The NSS has written to the ASA’s chairman, Lord Smith, asking him to revisit the ice cream ad judgments with a view to reversing them.
In its latest report, the ASA has cleared an advertisement for a barber’s shop which was accused of offending Christians.
But previously the ASA had banned two advertisements from the ice cream manufacturer Antonio Federici one of which showed a pregnant nun and the other featured two priests who appeared to be on the verge of kissing each other.
Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: The ASA is completely inconsistent in its approach to adverts featuring religious imagery. It bans much milder advertisements — such as those for the ice cream company Antonio Federici which sent up clergy and nuns rather than anything directly to do with faith — and yet clears this one that parodies Jesus. Where’s the logic in that?
Mr Sanderson said that the ASA may be easing up a little on its previously strict approach to advertising using religious images after NSS staff met with Lord Smith to discuss the ASA’s unjustifiable restrictions on free expression.