The United Kingdom's Advertising Standards Authority has declared a gambling ad, which mocks the crucifixion, as offensive and banned it from being used.
"We considered the offence was likely to be particularly strongly felt by those of the Christian faith at Easter, when the imagery would have a particularly strong resonance," the independent advertising regulator said in its ruling. "We considered that the ad was likely to cause serious offence and concluded that it was therefore in breach of the [advertising] Code."
The Boylesports Enterprise ad, which ran from March 24 to 27 -- from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday in the Christian calendar -- was sent to people via email. It featured a hand nailed to a piece of wood, with a desert used as background. Its strapline reads, "BOYLESPORTS GAMING - NAILED ON BONUS."
"Hi [recipient's name] - In memory of the dearly departed JC, we are offering you a sacrilecious [sic] bonus this Easter weekend," reads the email. "So don't just sit there gorging your own body weight in chocolate, that's disrespectful. Get on Boylesports Gaming and get your nailed on bonus."
One recipient filed a complaint with the ASA, saying that the ad "mocked the Christian religion at an important time in the Christian year." In response to the complaint, Boylesport denied any religious symbolism and argued that crucifixion was a common practice in Jesus' era. Furthermore, the company, citing examples from everyday language, music, and film, expressed their belief that language and imagery associated with crucifixion has already been "absorbed in everyday culture."
In its ruling, the ASA considered that the elements of the ad -- from the image used to the "jokey" language, plus the timing of its release -- all contributed to giving the impression that it was referring to Jesus' crucifixion and not to "a generic, historic crucifixion" as claimed by the company. In light of these, the ASA considered that the ad and its elements "were likely to cause serious offence to some recipients."
"We welcomed Boylesports Enterprise's assurance that the ad had finished its run," the ASA wrote. "The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Boylesports Enterprise to ensure future ads did not cause serious or widespread offence."