One of the most interesting and controversial media stories to emerge this week is the decision by the UK’s main cinemas to ban an advert from the Church of England. The DCM agency, which handles ads for the Cineworld, Odeon and Vue cinema chains, is refusing to show a CoE advert which features people from different walks of life reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
DCM have justified their decision by claiming that the advert may offend people of different faiths or those who have no faith. The advert, which directs people to the Just Pray website, was scheduled to be screened at showings of the latest movie in the Star Wars franchise. According to the Census, 0.7 per cent of people list their religion as Jedi, so maybe the cinema chains are worried about offending them.
Unsurprisingly, there has been no move by cinemas or TV companies to ban Christmas ads by High Street retailers, with John Lewis alone spending an eye watering £7 million on their campaign.
I think that there are two related issues at play here. Firstly, the UK is a secular country, not a Christian one. The majority of people may still describe themselves as Christian, but barely ten per cent attend Church on a regular basis.
Secondly, we now regard Christmas as a commercial festival, not a religious one. Most people view Christmas not as a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, but as an excuse to go out and spend too much, eat too much and drink way too much.
For the CoE, this whole affair has been a mix blessing (pun intended!). The ongoing debate over the rights and wrongs of the ban has resulted in far more media coverage than would have been generated if the ads had been screened as planned. It may also help to remind the public that Christmas without Christ is meaningless. From a PR point of view, that seems like a result to me.