Wednesday, October 4, 2017
by Denfield

Can religion play a role in advertising?

It’s an era of political politeness and government guidelines when it comes to religion in advertising, and perhaps that’s the way it should be. After all, advertisers should be thinking about how certain slogans or campaigns will be taken by their entire audience, and therefore avoid anything that will cause offence – especially in the current environment of social media that’s ready to spread any slip-ups far and wide. But nevertheless, there continue to be brands that insist on testing the limits.

In 2014, Pret a Manger had to withdraw a line of tomato-flavoured crisps they had named ‘Virgin Mary’, after understandable outbursts from the Catholic community. And Harley-Davidson toed the line in French-speaking Québec after debuting a composite picture of two women – one wearing a hijab and the other a motorcycle helmet – with the tagline ‘À chacun sa religion’, which roughly translates to ‘to each her religion.’

So where does that leave religion in the digital age? As a society, we have never been more aware of religion as we are now, despite the fact that many decide not to practise one. Britain alone houses citizens from every possible race and religion, which means advertisers have to think much harder about the material they choose to display. And it only takes a large religious celebration like Christmas to show just how hard they have to work to remain relevant to everyone – just think, when’s the last time you saw Baby Jesus in the John Lewis Christmas advert?

Given that advertising’s primary role is to establish relevance with a target, placing religion into the mix is a risky move to begin with; unless your audience is a specific religious group, uniting the two is therefore balanced on a razor’s edge from the very beginning. In the pursuit of including some, you risk offending others, and vice versa. And no matter what a person’s beliefs, using a religious theme purely for commercial reward risks offending the principles of many, and degrades your brand’s reputation – sometimes irrevocably.

At Denfield, we’re proud of our diverse team who never fail to deliver outstanding content to brands across all sectors, and we know that we wouldn’t get anywhere without the input of many different beliefs and walks of life. But perhaps it’s safer to leave religion out of the mix when it comes to your next creative campaign – why not speak to us to find out how we can help with your 2017 Christmas campaign or anything else you’d like to achieve? Get in touch today.