An email for Boylesports Enterprise, dated 25 March 2016, showed a hand nailed to a length of wood. Blood dripped from where the nail entered the hand and a desert scene was shown in the background. Large text stated "BOYLESPORTS GAMING - NAILED ON BONUS". Text on a sign hanging from the nail stated "BETWEEN 5 - 25 QUID". Text below the image stated "Hi [recipient's name] - In memory of the dearly departed JC, we are offering you a sacrilecious [sic] Bonus this Easter weekend ... 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".
The recipient, who considered that the ad depicted a crucifixion and that it mocked the Christian religion at an important time in the Christian year, challenged whether the ad was offensive.
Boylesports Enterprise said the promotion ran for four days only, 24 to 27 March 2016. They acknowledged that the image represented a crucifixion, but pointed out that the image of the hand was the only element displayed, as opposed to images which they believed would be seen as more gratuitous or associated with worship. They believed there was no religious symbolism in the image and that crucifixion was a common practice in Christ's time. They believed that the language and imagery associated with crucifixion had been absorbed into everyday culture and cited examples from film, music and everyday language.
The ad showed a partial image of a crucifixion with a desert scene in the background and was sent to recipients over the Easter weekend – the complainant received it on Good Friday. The ASA considered those elements and that timing, together with the references in the text to "the dearly departed JC", a "sacrilecious [sic]" bonus and "that's disrespectful", all contributed to the impression that the image was a reference not simply to a generic, historic crucifixion but to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Given that context, we considered that the way in which the ad made light of the subject matter, with the play on words "NAILED ON BONUS"; the jokey language of "BETWEEN 5-25 QUID", "dearly departed JC" and "sacrilecious Bonus", and the cartoon-style image of blood dripping from the hand pierced by the nail, a particularly sacred image for Christians, were likely to cause serious offence to some recipients. 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. We considered that the ad was likely to cause serious offence and concluded that it was therefore in breach of the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
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. (Harm and offence).
We welcomed Boylesports Enterprise's assurance that the ad had finished its run. 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.