A pizza company caused nutter 'outrage' in New Zealand with billboards advertising hot cross
buns accompanied by the slogan: For a limited time. A bit like Jesus. Instead of the traditional Christian cross, the buns bear an inverted pentagram. The giant billboards, placed by the Hell Pizza company, have been posted around Auckland.
New Zealand's Advertising Standards Authority received multiple complainants sharing similar views suggesting that the advertisement was: nothing short of emotional and spiritual abuse; grossly offensive; was sickening distasteful
, discriminatory and insensitive ; that the use of the Satanic symbols as well as the wording is blasphemous; that the advertisement mocks Easter and its importance to the Christian faith; that it was inappropriate for
tourists and children to see; was factually incorrect, inflammatory and promoted anarchy.
Additional matters raised by some Complainants included: showing the Satanic symbol on the bun in place of a sacred cross symbol which therefore put Satan in Jesus' place was extremely offensive; that the Christian faith was being
slandered and ridiculed in a way that wouldn't be accepted if it were directed at other religions or minority groups; that by substituting the Cross with the Star of David belittles both Jesus and Jewish people; is a clear case of anti-semitism
and a breach of Jewish Human Rights; that a characteristic of a healthy society was mutual respect which the advertisement could damage.
The ASA considered:
- Basic Principle 4: All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society.
- Rule 5: Offensiveness - Advertisements should not contain anything which in the light of generally prevailing community standards is likely to cause serious or widespread offence taking into account the context, medium, audience and product (including
As a preliminary matter, the Complaints Board acknowledged that the number of complaints that had been received (179) about the advertisement was testimony to the fact that the billboard had caused deep offence to some people.
Turning to the advertisement, the Complaints Board noted that the symbol that appeared on the bun, together with the statement For a limited time a little bit like Jesus had caused offence. Turning first to the symbol that appeared on the
bun, the Complaints Board clarified that it was an inverted pentacle - the symbol of the Church of Satan - but noted that some Complainants mistook the symbol for the Star of David and, as such, said that the advertisement denigrated the Jewish faith.
However, because the symbol was not the Star of David, the Complaints Board agreed that, with regard to this aspect of the complaint, any potential derision or ridicule that Complainants identified as caused to the Jewish faith by the advertisement
was not relevant.
The Complaints Board then considered the possibility of serious offence, taking into account the context, medium and audience. The majority of the Board acknowledged that the message and the timing was deliberately provocative, but noted that socially
provocative and sometimes confrontational advertisements were predictable from this particular Advertiser. The majority also acknowledged the deep offence the advertisement had caused some to Christians however; the majority was of the view that the
imagery itself on the advertisement was relatively innocuous, and that any possible offence would be caused by people's understanding of the symbol and the text in the advertisement. However, the majority said that nothing in the advertisement had specifically
attacked the tenets of Christianity, or the existence of Jesus, but instead had used the well-known promotional line: here for a limited time in association with the Crucifixion.
The majority was of the view that, while provocative, the degree of black humour would be recognised by most people, including many Christians, and said that this humour - albeit provocative - saved the advertisement from being likely to cause serious
or widespread offence in the light of generally prevailing community standards. As such, the majority of the Complaints Board was of the view that the advertisement was prepared with a due sense of responsibility to consumers and society and did not
meet the threshold to reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread offence on the grounds of peoples' religious beliefs. Therefore, the Complaints Board ruled that the advertisement did not reach the threshold to breach of Basic Principle 4 or Rule
5 of the Code of Ethics, or Basic Principle 3 or 6 of the Code for People in Advertising.
A minority disagreed. Taking into account the context, medium and audience, the minority said that the advertisement was highly visible to a wide cross-section of the general public and, in combination with the deliberate timing of the advertisement
was offensive, socially irresponsible and a cynical exploitation of Christian sensibilities at Easter. The minority also found that the advertisement was an attack that was aimed and timed specifically at Christianity and to offend Christians. As such,
the minority found that the advertisement was reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread offence on the grounds of peoples' religious beliefs. Therefore, the minority found that the advertisement was in breach of Basic Principle 4 and Rule 5 of
the Code of Ethics, and Basic Principle 3 and 6 of the Code for People in Advertising.
However, in accordance with the majority, the Complaints Board ruled to not uphold the complaint.