Hair Ad Banned For Being "Offensive to Religion"

Despite the recent abolishment of UK blasphemy laws (blas for me, blas for you, blas for everyone!), the Advertising Standards Authority is still taking a dim view of marketing which “causes offense” to Christians.

Yes, we’re all thinking it. What happened to ‘turn the other cheek’?

This week, the victim of sensitivity is new hairstyling brand ghd, whose “a new religion for hair” campaign has been banned for, get this, eroticising the Christian religion. This from an organisation whose central figure is usually topless and in the company of a hooker. A whopping 22 people (and an archdeacon) complained about the ad. More details, a link to one of the ads, and the ASA ruling after the jump.

The ASA ruling for the ads describes the ads (they sound rather fun to me), and also the nature of the complaint,

“The Archdeacon of Liverpool and 22 members of the public objected that the ads, particularly the use of the phrase “thy will be done” from the Lord’s Prayer and the depiction of the letter ‘t’ as a cross in ‘thy’, were offensive to the Christian faith.”

The ASA’s ruling reads like a parody.

“The ASA acknowledged that ghd had been using the phrase “a new religion for hair” in their marketing for the past seven years. We considered that ghd’s use of the word “religion” in that context did not mock faith or belief, but was intended to refer in the wider sense to an interest or hobby followed with devotion.

We noted, however, that the women in the ads appeared to be in prayer: their hands were clasped and they were looking upwards towards the sky. One was holding a votive candle and another was holding a set of beads that resembled rosary beads. We also noted the images of the women in their bedrooms, some of them in their underwear and others on their beds, were presented in a way that could be seen to be erotic.  “

What is amusingly absent from the ASA ruling is any comment on why it’s not ok to eroticise or parody religion. If Christians believed the stuff they spout (and they do – I used to be one), then they should be comfortable enough knowing that those evil advertising execs are going to hell without having to censor legitimate advertising. Let’s get one thing clear: religion has been ‘eroticised’ in art, movies, literature and comedy for years, and certainly parodied therein, and the Archdeacon has kept his job. What is so weak about his position and organisation that he needs to fear an advert?

Let’s see just what it is that he fears so much:


I bet this year GHD sell more hair products than the church gets new members. Perhaps instead of seeking to censor, the Archbish should be seeking out their advertising agency…

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Wow, that ruling to abolish blasphemy laws is pretty impressive. Who says Lib Dems never accomplish anything??

    (Full disclosure: If I ever DO return to the UK and am able to vote, I'd probably vote for the Lib Dems…after all, their leader admitted he had no belief in God, and that's a trait I'd admire in a Prime Minister :-P )

  2. Blake Stacey, for some reason I thought that was going to be a link to this classic. I don't know why that sprang to mind, based solely on the prompt "can be seen as erotic", and I don't think I want to know.

    Also, if it was "particularly" the use of four words from the Lord's Prayer that this horde of 22 found offensive, I'd be interested to hear what else about the ad was in any way objectionable, albeit less particularly so. I mean, nothing really happens. And just about anything "could be seen to be erotic" in the context of attractive women, candles, and some languorous music. (And on the internet, you can be pretty much certain that it is, somewhere.)

  3. Gee… The ladies certainly look pensive to me, but now candles, holding hands and even looking up are trademarks of religion? *This* particular religion?

    Come on already!

  4. If the Christian in question is conservative enough, EVERYTHING offends them. So it really doesn’t matter what ads get played, somebody’s going to be indulging in a little hissy fit of “righteous” anger.

    They could, of course, turn off their TVs, but that would be way too simple.

  5. I know!! Let's complain to the ASA about every advert that doesn't feature religion, as being offensive to atheists.

  6. Honestly, when I saw the women used in the ads, I thought it wasn’t erotic enough… but maybe I’ve just been alone too long. :P

  7. I have this inkling that when Christians in the UK
    act this sensitive, it has something to do with
    the outrageous, disproportiate responses that
    happens when Muslims are offended. Could
    there be a Christian “me-too” attitude? Finding
    nits to pick, just so they can show how faithful to
    and proud of their religion they are?

    [By the way, the only english spoken line
    “They can dump (?) at night and come home
    to me”– did i hear that right? what did that

  8. “He can dump her tonight and come home with me”

    Dump as in chuck or ditch. Colloquialism for split up or terminate a relationship. What’s the appropriate Americanism for this?

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