17 Sep


I’m not usually a prude. I’m actually pretty open-minded and liberal. But I value and respect organisations like Clearcast and the ASA and the work they do to ensure that no one exposed to advertising is offended by what they see or hear. I imagine that if I described something as mad, mental or crazy, I would get a ticking off somewhere down the line, if not from the regulators then from mental health organisations who see nothing comic in schizophrenia.

Likewise, if any Islamophobia were to creep into adland, I imagine the work would get short shrift with the authorities. Now, more than ever, we are hyper aware of the sensitivities of others. Causing offence to the mentally ill, the fat, the short, LGBT and any number of minority groups is now front of mind for the authorities. Rightly so, we all believe we have rights, and it is our right not to be offended by advertising.

I have history with causing offense. It is inconceivable that a commercial as unashamedly jingoistic and rabidly anti French as Blackcurrant Tango ‘St George’ would get past a client, today, let alone Clearcast. And if that commercial were written today and the authorities asked for it to be toned down, we would have no choice other than to remove lines like “You’re one dissenting voice in a billion, Jonny French, you’re that”.

One group of people, however, remain ‘fair game’ in advertising – those Christians and Jews who do their best to live their lives according to the Ten Commandments. Commandment 3 (ie, quite high up on the list of ‘Thou shalt nots’) is the order not to take the Lord’s name in vain. Put simply, using His name flippantly is detestable to God. There is no grey area here, it is absolutely, properly and completely forbidden for Jews and Christians to do this. Many Jews and Christians are deeply offended when they hear other people do this. They teach their children never to do it. ‘O my God!’ ‘Jesus Christ!’ ‘Christ on a Bike!’ ‘For God’s sake’. Each of these – to stray into Mel Gibson territory – is a whiplash on the already flayed back of the soon-to-be-crucified Jesus.

Yet adland happily signs off ‘OMG’ as if no one minds. We do mind. It hurts. Despite having Jewish roots, I was ‘born again’ as a Christian in 1985. Like most believers, I genuinely believe that God has intervened in some of the bleakest situations that I have faced, and has pulled me through. Personal faith is a deeply sensitive area. I don’t expect others to empathise with this or even condone it, but surely if a 20 stone man has the right not to be ridiculed in advertising, I have the right not to read or hear ‘O…MY…GOD… either. Just because there are more of you than there are of me doesn’t mean I don’t matter.

The purpose of this blog is not to have a moan but simply to let you know (if you didn’t already) that OMG is a breach of a commandment that sits in a list that also orders people not to steal, kill or sleep with other people’s husbands and wives. Even if no offence is meant, offence is taken, and it’s over to the great and (hopefully) good in advertising to decide if defending blasphemy is more important than respecting the deeply held and cherished beliefs of the religious-minded. Over to you guys!

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