I have posted a number of articles about different advertising campaigns. From Stonewall’s ‘Some people are gay. Get over it“, through Islam is Peace’s ‘Proud to be a British Muslim. IslamIsPeace.org.uk‘, to Jesus Said’s ‘When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?‘.
The latter post related to an article on Guardian’s Comment is Free by Ariane Sherine entitled, ‘Atheists – Gimme Five’. Following a visit to a website that Jesus Said posters were advertising on London buses, Sherine was confronted with what she described as a discomforting message:
“You will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell. Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire which was prepared for the devil and all his angels (demonic spirits)” (Matthew 25:41).
As she put it:
Lots to look forward to, then
Sherine concluded by suggesting that:
if there are 4,680 atheists reading this and we all contribute £5, it’s possible that we can fund a much-needed atheist London bus ad with the slogan: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life”
Whether she got the £5 or not is irrelevant because the British Humanist Association (BHA) has today announced that it will be running this very campaign. Having originally set out to raise £5,500, they have raised approximately £36,000 and may extend the campaign by placing posters both inside and outside the buses at the same time as expanding the campaign to Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh. It aims to have two sets of 30 buses carrying the slogan – “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” – for four weeks.
The atheist posters are supported by prominent evangelical atheist Professor Richard Dawkins who said:
Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride – automatic tax breaks, unearned respect and the right not to be offended, the right to brainwash children. Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side. This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.
Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the BHA, added:
We see so many posters advertising salvation through Jesus or threatening us with eternal damnation, that I feel sure that a bus advert like this will be welcomed as a breath of fresh air. If it raises a smile as well as making people think, so much the better.
Whether one agrees or not, and as asked in a previous post, should organisations and groups be able to make categorical statements and declarations when their message is subjectively (depending upon your own viewpoint and worldview) unproven and potentially even false?
The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) may offer some clarity on this matter. In terms of non-broadcast advertising, its CAP Code states that:
7.1 No marketing communication should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.
7.2 Marketing communications must not omit, hide or provide in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner material information if that omission or presentation is likely to affect consumers’ decisions about whether and how to buy the advertised product, unless the information is obvious from the context…
Under this, it would appear that some ‘inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration…’ etc must be present in what amounts to oppositely competing claims from those such as the BHA and Jesus Said. Whether they in fact ‘affect consumers’ decisions about whether and how to buy the product…’ though remains open to question and I would guess, linked to matters of faith or indeed none.
However, in the CAP Code section 8.1, it says that:
Marketers may give a view about any matter, including the qualities or desirability of their products, provided it is clear that they are expressing their own opinion rather than stating a fact.
Because the BHA say that ‘there’s probably no God’ it would seem that their poster campaign meets the requirements of section 8.1 somewhat more so than the Jesus Said campaign does, where it states that ‘you will be condemned to everlasting separation from God’. The first clearly states an opinion, the second a matter of fact and so against the CAP Code.
Whether this means that either campaign are right, or that such campaigns should be allowed to run on buses continues to remain open to debate. So in the words of the BHA, stop worrying and enjoy your life: if you don’t like the campaigns or the messages they espouse, then don’t buy the product.
Everything on this site by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. www.chris-allen.co.uk.