Friday, June 20, 2008

Godvertising standards

Ariane Sherine saw a Bible quote on the side of a London bus the other day; the ad plugged a website that tells atheists:

"You will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell. Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire which was prepared for the devil and all his angels (demonic spirits)" (Matthew 25:41).

She ponders:

Now, if I wanted to run a bus ad saying "Beware – there is a giant lion from London Zoo on the loose!" or "The 'bits' in orange juice aren't orange but plastic – don't drink them or you'll die!" I think I might be asked to show my working and back up my claims. But apparently you don't need evidence to run an ad suggesting we'll all face the ire of the son of man when he comes, then link to a website advocating endless pain for atheists.

But, on calling up the Advertising Standards Authority, Sherine was told that “there's nothing in the advertising standards code to prohibit advertising a religious message”.

But wait! In to the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing, under the heading ‘Decency’, it says:

Marketing communications should contain nothing that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or disability.

Now, you might try to get round the latter bit by arguing that atheism isn’t a religion, which is true, but surely the hellfire threat is also going to apply to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.

There’s more. Under ‘Honesty’, it says:

Marketers should not exploit the credulity, lack of knowledge or inexperience of consumers.

Under ‘Matters of opinion’:

Marketers may give a view about any matter, including the qualities or desirability of their products, provided it is clear that they are expressing their own opinion rather than stating a fact.

Under ‘Fear and distress’:

No marketing communication should cause fear or distress without good reason.

And under ‘Substantiation’ (no, not ‘Transubstantiation’):

Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation.

If there is a significant division of informed opinion about any claims made in a marketing communication they should not be portrayed as generally agreed.

Let’s sue!

1 comment:

Niculae said...

Don't believe the ASA. They are being controlled by the few people that has special interests. If an ad is against the interest of this group, it will get banned. If not, then nothing will happen. Just look at the palm oil case. They banned the ad not because it was misleading, but because palm actually pose a serious threat to the soybean / rapeseed industry in UK and Europe.