Back on 16th January I spotted a photo that Giles Wendes added to Facebook. The picture was a photo of an advert on a London Underground train. Here’s the artwork from the photo:
Someone on the thread (might have been Giles) wondered if the claim was worthy of review by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). I tended to agree that a response maybe interesting. While I generally don’t give a toss what Christians believe so long as it’s non intrusive and doesn’t effect educational standards in schools, I was curious as to how the ASA would reach a decision.
This is their response in full:
Dear Mr James
Widernet Communications Ltd t/a Christian Connection
As you know, we’ve been considering your complaint about this ad.
We consider cases relating to harm and offence very seriously and in this case, we submitted the ad to the ASA Council for their decision. The ASA Council has considered the ad and your complaint but didn’t think there were sufficient grounds for us to intervene on this occasion.
While Council acknowledged that the ad may not be to everyone’s taste, they noted that it did not refer to non-Christians in a derogatory or critical way. Council considered that consumers were generally likely to interpret the claim “CHRISTIANS MAKE BETTER LOVERS” as being the advertiser’s opinion, and that in the context of an ad for an online dating site for Christians, that it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence or mislead consumers for the reasons suggested.
I realise the Council’s decision will disappoint you, but I’ve passed your comments to the advertiser (without revealing your identity) so that they are aware of your views and we will continue to monitor the response to this campaign.
Our website, www.asa.org.uk, contains information about the ASA and the work we do, including the results of investigations into other complaints, many of which have been upheld.
While it would seem fair to make a direct comparison to the claims of homeopaths being their “opinion”, it isn’t. Medical, nutritional, gambling, tobacco and many other types of advertising have specific categories and rules. There are some very strict rules regarding claims of efficacy in these areas that don’t apply here. I wonder if they should, but they don’t!
I could, however, make an argument against the ASA’s ruling based on a couple of points. But they’d be speculative at best and overall I don’t disagree with their decision. Any perceived offence on my part is really manufactured. The claim doesn’t speak to the product they’re selling, either.
Point 4.1 of the code is clear here:
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 race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code.
The ASA did recently take the rare step of asking an advertiser (Paddy Power) to withdraw an advert even before they had reached a conclusion, like above. The advert was deemed to bring advertising itself into disrepute as well as causing widespread offence.
The two adverts are, in someways, comparable. They both attempted to play on a certain amount of ‘shock value.’ They both had people writing print and online press about them, which is just added value for their respective campaigns. This is, however, where any real comparison ends.
While it’s fair to say I don’t agree with the sentiment Christian Connections are sharing, I do feel they have the right to say it and I suppose I’m glad the ASA agree… begrudgingly!
I wonder how many complaints an atheist dating site using similar tactics would receive? I’d like to hope the ASA would be as level handed.
Anyway, enough of this.