If you listen to the news or watch television, you may well be aware that Staffordshire based mobile phone company Phones 4U has had an advert banned because it was disrespectful to the Christian faith.

My question is not whether the advert should or should not have banned but why Phones 4U chose to run it in the first place? 

The company isn’t new to advertising. It won "Best National Advertising and Marketing Campaign" at the 2007 and 2008 Mobile News Awards. An old press announcing a £9.5M advertising budget comes with this in the editor’s notes:

“Leading the way in the mobile industry through its excellent customer service, innovative advertising and differentiated in-store experience, Phones 4u has 428 stores and is still rapidly growing.”

So, why make a mistake like this? Why run an advert on Maundy Thursday (21 April this year), just before Easter, featuring a cartoon depiction of Christ and the Sacred Heart, using of the term "miraculous" to describe a mobile phone deal? Surely you know you are going to get complaints, right? 

Well, yes, you must. And I suspect that this is the very reason for running the advert. It generated a huge amount of publicity at the time and this week it’s been covered everywhere from The Guardian, BBC.co.uk and The Independent to The Christian Post and Web site God Discussion. 

Phones 4U said that as soon as it received complaints, it apologised and withdrew the advertisement. It also sent individual apologies to everyone who complained. Not a bad response for a contrite phone business, seeking to avoid offence. One might even say well advised, from a PR point of view. One might almost say very well advised. Even immaculately conceived (forgive the pun) from the very start. 

And, of course, the Advertising Standards Authority ban really makes no difference at all. Phones4u hasn’t had to pay a fine and the ASA can only ask the company not to use the image again. Given that the adverts ran before Easter 2011, and it has already been taken down, one might be tempted to respond the ASA with a quick note saying simply, ‘bothered’. 

PS - The image of Christ appears to have been inspired by the Buddy Christ from Kevin Smith’s film Dogma, by the way. #JustSaying

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