By Christopher Hall

Easter is the most important and oldest festival of the Christian calendar, celebrating the resurrection of Christ. It is a time when most of us get together with our families, share a meal and – of course – eat lots of chocolate.

Whether you believe in God or not, religion is a sensitive subject matter especially when it comes to marketing communications, and marketers should be careful not to cause serious or widespread offence to followers of different faiths.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code clearly states that “Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of…religion

References to non-Christian religions can be more likely to cause serious or widespread offence either because of a lack of understanding of what might offend their followers or because non-Christian faiths are less established in the UK and might need to be treated with more sensitivity

The use of religious imagery or language may be considered acceptable, provided it is not mocking or disrespectful.

A number of past decisions made by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on religious offence relate to references to Christianity, and a relatively small number concern other religions.

Although religious offence accounts for few complaints to the ASA, the offence caused can be very serious. CAP has issued a Help Note on Religious Offence, which covers these topics:

  1. The sacred: aspects of religion that are so sacred their depiction is likely to break the Code;
  2. Christianity and common culture: tolerance that extends to the use of Christian images and words;
  3. Non-Christian faiths: the need for greater sensitivity towards minority faiths;
  4. Language: ecclesiastical language and what might or might not offend;
  5. Sex and Religion: the use of sexualised images;
  6. Location, context, timing and media: where and when to avoid advertising, for example posters showing nudity close to places of worship;
  7. Relevance of product;
  8. Humour: whether humour gets round offence and
  9. Cause-related advertising: is it acceptable for charities and the like to use religious images to generate interest?

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Have an EGGxcellent Easter!

Related article: A quick lesson in portraying religion in adverts

 

Source: ASA & CAP website