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Church upset over HLL's Rin, Hindustan Times campaigns

By , agencyfaqs! | In Advertising | May 12, 2005
The Catholic Bishop's Conference of India is upset since the adverts have used Christian images/texts for commercial purposes


The Catholic Bishop's Conference of India, the apex body of all catholic churches in the country, has expressed its displeasure at Hindustan Lever's latest TVC on detergent brand Rin, and Hindustan Times' recent campaign plugging its new looks. & #BANNER1 & #

While the Rin commercial featured cinestar Amitabh Bachchan as a principal of a Catholic missionary school, Hindustan Times borrowed a quotation: 'Let there be light' from the Old Testament of the Bible.

Senior members of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of India (CBCI) are upset because the adverts have used Christian images/texts for commercial purposes.

The Rin controversy is now a month-old. It had started with the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), a Mumbai-based group, protesting against the Rin Advanced ad which showed a Jesuit school principal (Bachchan) in a not-so-white cassock asking a student how he keeps his clothes clean.

The CSF had complained to the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and Hindustan Lever alleging that the advert trivialised what was essentially a sacred and personal issue.

Consequently, Hindustan Lever approached the Archbishop of Mumbai's office, where the advert was cleared. The Archbishop office reportedly stated that it did not find anything objectionable about the ad, and it did not hurt the Christian sentiment.

HLL maintained that Rin needed to use a figure traditionally dressed in white to effectively communicate a brand proposition of superlative whiteness. That was the reason why a school principal was used as a protagonist, it explained.

Apparently, the story hasn't ended here. Babu Joseph, the spokesperson of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of India (CBCI), told agencyfaqs! that the issue is far from being closed.

"The CBCI will be contacting the Archbishop of Mumbai's office shortly and will re-examine the matter. If the ad is found offensive, we will appeal to HLL for stopping the campaign. As for Hindustan Times using a text from the Bible, we are concerned over such usage of religious texts for commercial reasons. Let the sacred be sacred. Such usages are avoidable," Joseph added.

CBCI, he continued, is against the commercial usage of deities/symbols/texts of all religions, and not Christianity alone. He referred to a recent example of how the association had lodged protests over a Goa tourism advert featuring a skimpily clad woman against the backdrop of a church. "Such ads are in bad taste. In the Indian socio-cultural milieu, such disrespect to any faith is irresponsible."

Hindustan Times' vice-president Anand Bharadwaj said the 'Let there be light' phrase was used to position the brand as a source of stimulating content. "The phrase was the creative rendition of how we throw light at issues and our competitors don't. It may have been sourced from the Bible but it is a common enough phrase. Plus, it is very appropriate for the brand positioning of Hindustan Times."

While the Indian Christian community's problems with adverts are relatively new and far between, the advertising community and the church are having too many run-ins internationally.

A poster campaign in the UK advertising the morning-after birth-control pill asked "Immaculate Contraception?" - obviously punning on the Roman Catholic belief of Immaculate Conception.

Another one - again in the UK - a poster for the popular TV show 'Shameless' echoed the scene of Leonardo da Vinci's Renaissance painting 'The Last Supper'. The show is set on a tough Manchester housing estate. The Advertising Standards Agency, UK's appellate authority on advertising, received 264 complaints from people who argued that the advert mocked Christianity. In France, fashion house Girbaud too was involved in a controversy over the depiction of 'The Last Supper'.

One more advert which caused an outrage was the TVC on Mr Kipling's Mince Pies. It showed a woman called Mary giving birth in what seemed to be a modern hospital - but was in fact a church.

Are these signs of irreverent times? 2005 agencyfaqs!