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Polish company rebuked for ‘insulting religion’ in virginity adverts


A Polish clothes company has been forced to withdraw a nationwide advertising campaign depicting teenagers in sexy poses with Roman Catholic rosaries after condemnation by the country’s advertising standards watchdog.

"This was the most protested advert in recent years," Konrad Drozdowski, a deputy director of Poland’s Advertising Ethics Commission, told journalists in Warsaw on 9 June. "Apart from 280 official complaints and several dozen petitions, we received hundreds of emails and letters and more than 500 telephone calls. This one advert provoked more protests than all others over the past year."

The official was speaking after a commission ruling that the House company had violated ethical norms with Internet pictures and billboard posters which juxtaposed images of male and female teenagers in contemplative and erotic poses.

Drozdowski said several protesters had branded the adverts "a brutal sneer at Catholicism", while others had complained of a "scoff at Christian symbols" and "gibe against God and religious practices". He also explained that the company’s advertising arm, Artman, was given a chance to explain its intentions during the commission’s discussion, as well as outlining the profiling the adverts’ target group among people aged 19-25.

The adverts, many alongside churches, showed a girl and boy gazing earnestly at their rosaries with the caption, "Protect me, Father!" However, in another frame, the same teenagers adopted suggestive poses above the slogan, "I know 69 ways to keep my virginity – do you?"

House’s director, Rafal Sajewicz, insisted the number 69 was purely incidental, adding that the objects in the images had too few beads to qualify as Catholic rosaries.

However, in its ruling, the commission said the objects were clearly associated with rosaries, while the use of a capital letter in the word "Father" implied a reference to God.

"Contents discriminating on grounds of religious conviction are against our Advertising Ethics Code and binding legal norms," added the commission, which comprises 15 expert non-party judges nominated by Poland’s advertising and media industries. "To link adverts to a universally known prayer risks offending the religious feelings of a large group of consumers."

Polish church leaders have frequently objected to religious images in company promotions, including giant posters by the Italian firm, United Colors of Benetton, showing a priest kissing a nun, and adverts by Britain’s Norwich Union insurance giant allegedly depicting upturned crosses. In January, the commission condemned a Christmas television advert showing a "fourth Wise Man" presenting the infant Christ with a can of the high-energy drink, Red Bull. ENI

To see the ads and read more visit Duncan’s TV at http://www.print.duncans.tv/2008/house-promotes-virginity-in-poland/