Originally, we planned to have the following posters up around railway stations across the UK:
Click the images for larger versions. (You can view the photos in really high resolution for press purposes at www.humanism.org.uk/census-adverts.)
However, our media agency approached the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) for “advice” on the copy, who told them that there was risk of ‘serious and widespread offence’ in particular due to the phrase “for God’s sake”. Subsequently the agency’s franchise partners who own the spaces at railway stations said that they would not host the Census Campaign posters with this, or any other slogan! We reallocated our advertising to buses.
We had hoped to place the following banner on buses featuring our campaign slogan:
Unfortunately, citing the same advice from CAP, the owners of the media space and the media agency said that they would have to run a revised version of the slogan.
Of course, we found these decision pretty outrageous. However, we opted to change the wording of the slogan so that we could get our message out. The following poster currently features on over 200 buses around the UK:
Through an alternate media agency, we have two flagship billboards in central London featuring our original slogan. At the time of writing, with billboards in place for nearly two weeks, we have received no complaints to the effect that the ads or the slogan are offensive and as far as we know no complaints have been made to the Advertising Standards Authority.
Digital panels in shopping centres
In a further development, VMG Global approached the BHA in full knowledge of CAP’s previous advice, offering to run the original poster ads on large, high visibility animated screens, which you can see in shopping centres around the country:
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association which is running the Census Campaign, said, ‘It is clearly not the case that any and all humorous references to religion are “offensive” and there is nothing shocking or mean-spirited about employing a common phrase which happens to reference the subject matter. Sensible advertisers know this.
‘And indeed religious people have not been complaining to us, or as far as we know to anyone else about the campaign slogan itself, which has already appeared on other buses and billboards. The slogan doesn’t target religious people, nor even criticise religion or religious belief – not that that should be a problem, either. Underscoring the point you are making with a pun is not offensive.’