ASA Adjudication on Phones 4 U Ltd
Phones 4 U Ltd
Lymedale Business Park
Newcastle under Lyme
7 September 2011
Computers and telecommunications
Number of complaints:
Two versions of a national press ad for Phones 4 U Ltd on 21 April 2011 featured a cartoon-like graphical illustration of Jesus Christ grinning broadly and winking, pointing a finger with one hand and displaying a thumbs-up sign with the other. The Sacred Heart was featured on his chest. Headline text stated "Miraculous deals on Samsung Galaxy AndroidTM phones".
Ninety-eight complainants challenged whether the ads were offensive, because the depiction of Jesus Christ and the Sacred Heart, the use of the term "miraculous" in that context and their publication during the Easter period were disrespectful to the Christian faith.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Phones 4 U said the ads were not intended to be disrespectful of the Christian faith nor were they intended to cause offence to Christians. They explained that their intention had been to run a press ad incorporating what they understood to be a light-hearted, positive and contemporary image of Christianity relevant to the Easter weekend. They said that with the benefit of hindsight, they understood and regretted any offence the ads had caused to some Christians and they apologised to anyone who was offended by the ads.
They explained that they had received some complaints directly and had promptly issued individual responses and apologies to those complainants. They said they withdrew the ads as soon as the negative reaction became apparent and confirmed they had no plans to run the ads again in their current form or in any similar form.
The ASA noted that Phones 4 U had not intended to cause any offence and we welcomed their explanation that the ads had been withdrawn following the receipt of negative feedback. We noted that the ads featured a cartoon-like graphical illustration of Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity, and the Sacred Heart, a sacred symbol central to the Christian faith. We considered that, although the ads were intended to be light-hearted and humorous, their depiction of Jesus winking and holding a thumbs-up sign, with the text "Miraculous" deals during Easter, the Christian Holy Week which celebrated Christ's resurrection, gave the impression that they were mocking and belittling core Christian beliefs. We agreed that the ads were disrespectful to the Christian faith and were likely to cause serious offence, particularly to Christians.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 4.1 (Harm and offence).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We welcomed Phones 4 U's assurance that the ads had been withdrawn and would not be run again in the same or similar form.