'Blasphemous' KFC ad escapes censure despite 30 complaints

A musical KFC ad that drew 30 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority after allegedly mocking Christian worship by referring to Christmas carols as "stupid songs", has escaped censure.

The tongue-in-cheek ad, created by BBH, ran at Christmas and depicted a variety of confrontations based on some of the less savoury aspects of Christmas, including two women fighting over the last item in a shop, a group of kids breaking a window during snowball fight, and an old man getting ready to spray carol singers with a hosepipe.

However, the various parties manage to make peace before the confrontations get too heated, joining one another in song and praising the virtues of a KFC bucket of chicken.

But complainants argued that the carol-singing scene specifically was "likely to cause serious and widespread offence because it mocked an element of Christian worship". The line that particularly irked Christian complainants was: "We showed up at your house again, singing our stupid songs."

KFC countered that the ad was obviously tongue-in-cheek and lampooned the commercial hype that typically surrounded Christmas. It said the old man was based on Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge and that the lyrics of the song sung by the carol singers captured his view of the world.

It said that the ad featured no religious symbolism and did not denigrate religion of any faith.

Clearcast said that, while Christians may have been offended on reading the pre-production script, the context and tone of the ad was sufficiently light-hearted, while celebrating unity and harmony, that widespread offence was unlikely.

The ASA considered that viewers would interpret the carol singers’ line about "our stupid songs" as a means to express the point of view of the old man.

The regulator judged that the ad "made clear that the carol singers were outside someone's house and were not in a church or any other place of worship and that they were therefore not representative of Christian singing or the Christian faith more generally".

The ASA also acknowledged that the carol-singing canon included both faith-based and non-faith songs.

The regulator did not uphold the complainants and said no further action was necessary.

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