So it’s that time of the year again. And, like most billion-dollar businesses, the church of England would rather be damned than miss this opportunity to sell their brand, and bolster their recent Just Pray campaign. This year, they went about it in the most professional way imaginable: they created an ad to be run in cinemas. I watched the ad, and think it’ll get the job done: it’s 54 seconds long and features the Lord’s Prayer (you know, the one that starts with ‘Our Father in Heaven…’) spoken by different people in different walks of life. The ad is simple, surprisingly dignified, well produced, and quiet – nicely done. It even ends with a jingle of sorts: the hashtag #justpray flashes across the screen.
The ad itself is timed perfectly: for optimal sell-though, it was pushed to the cinemas to be played before the new Star Wars movie that opens in the final days before Christmas – I don’t think there’s a better slot in the year.
Imagine the Church’s surprise (and dismay) when cinema chains Cineworld, Odeon and Vue (together these chains control some 80% of all UK screens) refused to play the ad. Why? Because, according to the Guardian, the chains believe it “carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences”.
This is pre-emptive political correctness run amok. First, this ad is so inoffensive that not even the most fundamental, attention-seeking (anti-)theist with a hair-line trigger could be bothered to do more than raise an eyebrow in a vaguely annoyed manner. More to the point, though – what if? To quote Hitchens:
If someone tells me that I’ve hurt their feelings I’m still waiting to hear what their point is.
I’m offended by people wearing white socks. The world doesn’t give a damn. Rightly so.
These cinema chains are run by cowards. They are afraid some religious dolt might take offense (unlikely as it seems), and protest. Against what? It’s not as if anyone has ever accused the advertising industry of being too truthful, so people don’t really expect to take an advert for Gospel (see what I did there?). Plus, this ad would run before Star Wars, for crying out loud! The audience is already primed for some childish fiction.
Also, most cinemas subsidize tickets with ads. Any moviegoer knows that they’d have to sit through a parade of ads before the main event. I’ve seen many ads I don’t like – perhaps even some that somewhat offended me (I dimly recall an ad selling cigarettes as a way to make you sexy). So? I’d rather watch some bad ads than pay more for a ticket. That’s universally understood. Furthermore, all cinema ads are lame – this is guaranteed since there is an oversight committee that must green-light any advert before it is shown.
The Church of England has every right to sell their brand of crazy, and this ad is well within the limits of decency. Once the Cinema Advertising Authority have cleared an ad it would behoove these cinemas to remember the only thing they should tell their advertisers: