A magazine ad for Antonio Federici ice cream showed a heavily pregnant woman dressed as a nun standing in a church holding a tub of ice cream in one hand and a spoon in the other. Text stated “Immaculately Conceived … ICE CREAM IS OUR RELIGION”….
Ten readers challenged whether the ad was offensive to Christians, particularly to those who practised Catholicism….
Antonio Federici said the idea of “conception” represented the development of their ice cream. They said their decision to use religious imagery stemmed from their strong feelings towards their product (they cited the text “ICE CREAM IS OUR RELIGION”) and also from their wish to comment on and question, using satire and gentle humour, the relevance and hypocrisy of religion and the attitudes of the church to social issues….
The ASA noted that the CAP Code stated that ads “should contain nothing that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or disability. Compliance with the Code will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards of decency”. We considered the use of a nun pregnant through immaculate conception was likely to be seen as a distortion and mockery of the beliefs of Roman Catholics. We concluded that to use such an image in a light hearted way to advertise ice cream was likely to cause serious offence to readers, particularly those who practised the Roman Catholic faith….
The ad breached CAP Code clause 5.1 (Decency).
UPDATE: Note that, as Antonio Federici points out, there’s some possible theological confusion here about the immaculate conception — which is not to be confused with virgin birth, or virgin conception — though it’s not clear whether the confusion is in the ASA’s statement, the ad, or both. But that’s not important right now.