ASA puts advertisers on notice over rise in religious objections

The Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) has warned advertisers to exercise caution over religious sensitivities, following a sharp increase in the number of complaints in this area.

The advertising watchdog’s Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has issued new guidance notes outlining what can constitute serious offence to people of different faiths.

Examples of high-profile ads that have had complaints upheld by the ASA in the past, because they offended people of certain religions, include a House of Fraser ad. It showed a procession of Hare Krishna followers with the caption: “If I wasn’t a chanting, cymbal-banging, easily-led nutcase who’d been brainwashed by some looney religious sect, I could be wearing Linea Direction’s extra fine merino sweater and linen jeans.”

The CAP guidance also reminds marketers to take into account whether or not ads are likely to appear close to places of worship.

Earlier this year, SCA Hygiene had to remove posters for its Velvet toilet tissue brand from certain sites after the ASA received complaints about the campaign, which features naked backsides.

ASA director-general Christopher Graham says: “The ASA is not in the business of trying to censor future advertising, but rather aims to ensure that the potential for hurt and offence is minimised.”

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