A body piercing business has been ordered to take down a series of advertisements accused of using “crucifixion imagery” to promote piercing discounts over the Easter period.
The business, Punktured, is a brand of Thendro Pty Ltd, which ran the advertisement on both social media and as a poster. It depicts a cartoon hand nailed to a wooden cross with blood streaming from it.
Hanging from the hand is a large stone, which reads “Get Nailed, $5 Piercings”.
The offer was promoted as starting on March 16, and ending on April 15, which was Easter Saturday. The Advertising Standards Board (ASB) received complaints accusing the advertisement of being “sacrilegious”.
“As a Christian I don’t think it is appropriate to be making light of the crucifixion especially this close to Easter,” wrote one complainant.
“The advertisement clearly links the promotion of body piercing services to the crucifixion of Christ, even to the extent of a special offer ending Easter Saturday,” wrote another.
“The use of crucifixion imagery in this way, particularly at Easter, is offensive and sacrilegious to Christians.”
Advertising expert and lecturer at the University of Melbourne, Lauren Rosewarne, told SmartCompany advertisers should be particularly mindful of messages sent during religious holidays, and using images of crucifixion are “simply asking for trouble”.
“Holidays that have their origins in faith, such as Easter or Christmas, means that marketing activities conducted during these periods need to be mindful of heightened sensitivities,” she says.
“While I think references to the crucifixion generally are something that should be avoided in advertising, certainly avoiding such imagery during Easter is sound advice.”
Advertiser claims complaints are “frivolous”
In response to the complaints, Thendro Pty Ltd labelled the complaints as “frivolous”, and put up a number of defences against the complaints.
One of these related to the positioning of the hand in the image, with the advertiser claiming that while the crucifixion of Christ is shown with his hands nailed to the ends of the cross, the ad in question shows a hand nailed to the centre of a cross. The company claimed this, along with the fact the hand in the ad “is vertical not angled the way Christ’s hand is depicted in crucifixion images”, shows the advertisement is not intended to depict Christ.
“Christians do not have a monopoly on crucifixion, even though they think they do. Julius Caesar in fact crucified hundreds of people,” the advertiser responded.
The advertiser also refuted the claims the promotion had depicted violence, stating it was “not depicting the action of the nailing”, and the hand is “simply nailed to the post”.
“We don’t sell buns with crosses on them, nor do we sell chocolate rabbits. We sell Body Piercing and alternative clothing,” the advertiser said.
“Our promotion started on 10th March and ends at the end of April, to take in the school holidays. Many businesses have an Easter Sale, and I guess this is our version of the same.”
The advertiser also noted the poster was part of a two-part campaign, with a second part being a “resurrection campaign”, which showed the hand of a zombie nailed to a wooden board.
Rosewarne warns two-part campaigns can sound strong in theory, but can fall apart when viewers don’t make the connection.
“The idea of a two-part advertisement may make sense to marketers, but audiences predisposed to being offended by such material are unlikely going to be searching too hard for reasons to excuse the offence,” she says.
Advertisement “trivialises” crucifixion
Despite the advertiser’s response, the board upheld the complaints, deciding the used of a hand nailed to a cross to promote body-piercing services “trivialises and is mocking of the significance of the crucifixion”, which the ASB said was a “central tenet” of Christian faith.
The ASB also considered the depiction of violence shown in the advertisement, noting, “piercings and tattooing in general do not amount to this level of blood loss”.
Noting, “overall the image and the words do amount to a depiction that is not justifiable in the context of the service advertised” the ASB upheld the complaints on the grounds of vilification of religion and the depiction of violence.
The advertiser complied with the decision, stating it would remove the advertisement from circulation, however the ad can still be viewed on the Punktured Facebook page.
SmartCompany contacted Thendro Pty Ltd but did not receive a response prior to publication.