After being rejected by advertising space owners on the railway network, posters for the Census Campaign are back with a vengeance. The campaign’s original slogan, ‘If you’re not religious for God’s sake say so’ is now appearing in animated form on digital panels, bringing the campaign off the streets and into shopping centres for the first time.
The Census Campaign, run by the British Humanist Association (BHA), is recommending that non-religious people tick ‘No religion’ in the Census. Through leaflet drops, donor-funded advertising and intensive online promotion, the campaign is raising awareness on how the Census exaggerates religiosity in the UK and how that data is used inappropriately to determine funding allocations at a local level and to justify policies such as state-funding for ‘faith’ schools at a national level.
The campaign was prevented from booking posters at railway stations following advice given to our media agency by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) that the slogan ‘If you’re not religious for God’s sake say so’ may cause ‘widespread’ and ‘serious’ offence. As a consequence the BHA’s media agency said that even a modified version of the slogan, omitting ‘for God’s sake’, was not acceptable to their franchise partners on the railways.
Into the breach have stepped VMG Global, who approached the BHA in full knowledge of CAP’s previous advice, offering to run the ads on large, high visibility animated screens. A spokesperson for VMG, Peter Evans, said, ‘VMG are delighted to help the BHA in its Census campaign by running the original, uncensored ads on our shopping centre screen network. We cannot see anything objectionable in the advertising copy. How this could cause anyone serious offence is a mystery to us.’
Chief Executive of the BHA Andrew Copson said, ‘It is clearly not the case that any and all humorous references to religion are “offensive” and there is nothing shocking or mean-spirited about employing a common phrase which happens to reference the subject matter. Sensible advertisers know this.
‘And indeed religious people have not been complaining to us, or as far as we know to anyone else about the campaign slogan itself, which has already appeared on other buses and billboards. The slogan doesn’t target religious people, nor even criticise religion or religious belief – not that that should be a problem, either. Underscoring the point you are making with a pun is not offensive.’
All three of the previously unadvertised posters, are on rotation on digital panels at London West One, Ipswich, Tunbridge Wells, Poole and elsewhere across VMG’s 159 screen Shopping Centre network.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.
The Census Campaign website, with links to social media and fundraising sites, is at www.census-campaign.org.uk.