Why God - Not Mog - Should be Christmas Top Cat

So, having offered the Church of England a bargain 55 per cent off ratecard to advertise the Lord's Prayer in the run up to Star Wars - and Christmas - the cinemas caught a chill and banned it. Surprise!

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral
While strangers pray on Paris streets and politicians face fearsome life and death decisions, cinema audiences are not credited with the intelligence to watch a 60-second recital of one of the world’s oldest prayers, expressed in possibly the season’s least offensive advert (it received an official ‘U’ rating from the British Board of Film Classification).

Far less offensive, for instance, than dear old Mog. 

But is ‘sharing’ what supermarkets actually sell? 

Or are they abusing an undoubtedly engaging story to persuade us to buy more food we don’t need to eat and will soon regret, so that come the midnight diet strike of New Year, they can flip to selling us low-fat saviours.

Or how about that poor old man in the moon? Thank heavens there’s a small girl on earth who cares enough to send him a gift adrift in balloons (although that telescope stuff is a bit creepy, non?).  

A stocking full of off-the-peg morality from retailers who never knowingly under-sell us a nice middle class life. And, believe me, I’ve been one of their biggest fans for years.

It’s no surprise that there is a cynical, competitive game at play: these ads are made to secure market share of hearts and minds and airtime, not just the majority wadge of wallets. Everyone’s vying to be top dog in the ‘traditional’ Christmas ad league tables.  

All good seasonal fun. Perhaps. But at what cost to our ability to have an intelligent debate about the place of faith in an increasingly politicised, polarised, commercialised world?

Ad verto: I turn towards. For Christians – and anyone roped in as godparents - it’s a familiar phrase.
It’s also something the church has done for millennia. Spires reach to the heavens, bells call people to prayer and stained glass tells violent, tragic, compelling dramas in jewel-like vibrancy. #JustPray does the same, in the cloud.

The real problem in all this is not whether or not any faith ‘should’ advertise. It’s whether consumers are allowed to think.  

In the most media savvy age of all time, it’s unacceptable for people of good faith, no faith and of integrity, to be shielded from 2,000-year old theology to be force-fed a saccharine diet of happy pap and hollow promises: virtual reality becomes virtual morality in an orgy of seasonal misrule and mayhem.

I love advertising. But how appalling that this clever, powerful medium that captures imaginations, turns heads and changes minds is only festive fare for big brands with deep pockets who sell us a false product of a morality they cannot ‘claim’ and do not stock.  

Merry Christmas!

Sue Primmer is a marketing expert and a former Church of England press officer. 

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