Behold, a whinge is born…ASA dismisses ludicrous blasphemy complaints about handbag advert referencing nativity

Posted: 24 December, 2015 in ASA Advert Censor
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mulberry nativity advert video Identical video ads on the website http://www.mulberry.com and on YouTube, seen in November 2015, promoted Mulberry handbags. Both ads showed a man giving a woman a Mulberry handbag as a gift in scenes reminiscent of the Christmas Nativity story. Issue

Forty-two complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive to Christians because it replaced the baby Jesus with a handbag. The complainants objected that it undermined central messages of their faith; that the important scene was being used for the purpose of consumerism; and that it was blasphemous.

ASA Assessment: Complaints not upheld

The ASA noted that the ad was based on the bible story of the birth of the baby Jesus in a stable, and the visits by the shepherds and the wise men bearing gifts. We noted that the ad had appeared in the month before Christmas and that the complainants had found the use of religious references for commercial aims offensive. We noted that the ad began with the man giving the woman a gift with the words, I know we weren’t doing presents this year, but … , which we considered suggested a modern-day, present-giving context for what followed. Later on, after the shepherds and wise men had admired the bag, the man said, Guys, it’s only a bag , which we considered was likely to be interpreted by viewers as referring to the playful and ridiculous nature of the comparison with the Nativity story, and was more likely to be seen as a humorous reference to consumerism than ridiculing the story. We acknowledged that the ad might not be to everyone’s taste, but considered most viewers would understand it as a light hearted take on the Nativity story, intended to poke fun at the effect of consumerism on Christmas rather than mocking or denigrating Christian belief. Because of that, we considered the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

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