Take care with Easter marketing, warns ASA

05 April 2019

DAVID UDEN

A greetings card gives no indication of Good Friday’s religious associations

A greetings card gives no indication of Good Friday’s religious associations

THE Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has called for “responsible” advertising around Easter, and said that companies should avoid causing “serious or widespread offence”.

In a release last Friday, the ASA said: “Given the sensitivities surrounding people’s religious beliefs, marketers must take care not to cause serious or widespread offence when using religious references in their campaigns in or around Easter.”

An online adult retailer using the phrase “res-erection” to sell a sex toy as an “Easter treat”, was, it said, deemed offensive.

The ASA said: “While humour can sometimes help to reduce the likelihood of causing serious or widespread offence, the line when it comes to religion can often be very thin.

“You should therefore tread carefully and bear in mind that, just because something might be considered funny by some, it will nevertheless be problematic if it offends a particular group.”

A Church House spokesman said on Tuesday: “We are grateful to the ASA for issuing a proportionate guideline which reiterates the importance of respecting faiths and beliefs.”

The ASA provided an example of something that was acceptable, “a graffiti painting of Jesus wearing a rabbit costume” in a tweet by Banks’s Beer in 2017. The watchdog said: “While distasteful to some, it was not likely to be generally seen as mocking or derogatory.”

Another, “featuring an image of a crucifixion, with cartoon-style imagery of blood dripping from a hand pierced by a nail alongside the text ‘nailed on bonus’, ‘dearly departed JC’ and ‘sacrilecious [sic] bonus’ was judged to cause serious offence”.

It said: “Easter is a holiday that holds religious significance, particularly for those of the Christian faith. It is also a cultural point of reference that marketers may use to engage consumers. . .

“There is nothing in the Advertising Codes that prevents advertisers from using references to religion to promote their products and services. It is, however, important to exercise caution when doing so, particularly when it comes to respecting people’s faith and beliefs.”

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