Provocative organ donation ad banned for insensitivity and ‘making light’ of Jesus’ crucifixion

A provocative ad campaign which features Jesus dying on the cross to promote organ donation has been overruled by the advertising watchdog.

The controversial social advertisement, which featured scenes where soldiers take “selfies” with Jesus while nailed to the cross, was ultimately banned for its “demeaning take” on Christianity, inappropriate humour and “inadequate consideration” given to “how seriously some Australians take their religion”.

Numerous complaints were sent to Ad Standards with the ad being labelled as “extremely offensive” and “disparaging, discrimatory [sic] and denigrates the death of Christ to the level of gutter humour”.

“I have been VILLIFIED AND REPULSED BY THIS SO CALLED COMEDY OF DYING PEOPLE needing organs for transplant. This Advert in no way shows any love or respect to organ Donours and no respect to Organ Recipients whatsoever. The Advert has distressed and put me up for serious ridicule and villification within my community. It has undertones of evil depicting Christians only as not doing enough for the dying [sic],” another complaint posted.

The ad, which was promoting a documentary on organ donation called Dying to Live,  was also accused of being “sacrilegious”, “insulting” and horrifying.

In defence of the ad, producers of the Dying to Live team said they acknowledge that “some members of the community” may find the content “insensitive in tone” but the approach was “effective in reach and engaging a large number of people”.

The team claimed that the ad reached half a million people and 90% reacted positively on social media.

“Our intention was not to offend any members of the community, but to highlight the important issue of donation in a way that raises discussion and debate around it nationally and within this key demographic.

“We recognise that the crucification of Jesus Christ is deemed by many to be a sacred event of reverence, however also respect and acknowledge that there exists a range of views in the community around the appropriateness and acceptability of imagery and depictions of the event, both in literal and satirical treatment, from both those of the Christian faith and those who are not.

“We do not personally believe the short trivialises the Christian faith, but that it highlights the positive message within it of Jesus’ act of giving life, and that with this exists a strong parallel to that effect of the important message we are promoting around donation,” the Dying to Live team explained.

Despite its response, the Ad Standards board said the “demeaning” take on an important Christian belief vilified Christians and their religion.

The ad watchdog said the advertiser didn’t give enough consideration into how seriously some Australians take their religious views and there wasn’t enough thought given to the level of offence Jesus nailed to the cross taking selfies would cause.

The scene which shows Jesus taking a ‘selfie’

“The depiction of Jesus ignores, or makes light, of the suffering of Jesus in being nailed to the cross, and that Jesus died as a result of the crucifixion.

“In particular the majority of the panel noted the depiction of taking ‘selfies’ with Jesus in conjunction with the phrase ‘nailed it’ and considered the reference to ‘stretch that little finger’ to be making light of the physical limitation of having his hands nailed to the cross.”

Ad Standards upheld the complaints and banned the ad, deeming it to be offensive and cause people to get upset by the images and humour used.

The producers of Dying to Love apologised for any offence the ad may have caused, saying it was never the “intention”.

“We wanted to reach a new audience by creating a light-hearted and well-meaning film to educate about an incredibly important topic of which many Australians are currently misinformed.”

The ad will no longer be promoted on Dying to Live’s social channels.


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