A Red Bull TV advert in which a “bored” cartoon Jesus “walks on water” has been removed after one day after it sparked a flurry of complaints from people who found it blasphemous.
In an official response email received by Gateway News this evening, Red Bull says the ad, which was broadcast on South African television last night “was part of our regular Red Bull series, is now off air and has now been followed by another”.
The email says Red Bull has “looked at well-known themes with a twinkle in the eye” for over 20 years. It says it was never its intention to hurt anyone’s feelings and that it regrets that people have been offended by the ad.
The advert depicts a cartoon “Jesus” in a boat with two disciples. He proclaims he is bored and steps out of the boat and walks on the water.
A disciple asks whether he is able to do so because he has drunk Red Bull, which “gives you wings”, or because it is a miracle.
“It’s no miracle, you just have to know where the stepping stones are,” Jesus replies.
Then Jesus nearly slips on a stone and says, “Jesus!”.
“Meant to offend”
In a statement released earlier today, Family Policy Institute director Errol Naidoo says: “The advert is meant to offend as it depicts the Jesus character in the cartoon using the name of Jesus as a curse word.
“Red Bull wouldn’t dream of mocking religious figures of other religions. Christianity and Jesus in particular are singled out for mockery by secular humanists and other anti-Christian bigots.
“FPI is launching a nationwide boycott of Red Bull products in response to this blasphemous attack on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The SA Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) also condemned the commercial.
“We question the timing of the release of the advert — which seems to be part of an international campaign,” says spokesman Cardinal Wilfred Napier in a statement.
“While the Red Bull adverts are characterised by their cleverness, we believe that Red Bull South Africa have overstepped a mark.”
Napier says the SACBC welcomes the halting of the campaign, but asks Red Bull SA to cancel it completely.
Sensitivity training suggested
“We also suggest that the marketing team and their advertising and public relations companies make a serious effort to attend sensitivity training. People are more than consumers and faith-based symbols are more than marketing opportunities.”
Napier says the SACBC is grateful that many South Africans, from different faiths and religions, have registered their displeasure with the campaign at Red Bull SA, and with the Advertising Standards Authority of SA.
“In a multi-faith country like South Africa, where over 70 percent of people profess to be people of faith, the use of faith-based symbols in a satirical, if tongue-in-check manner, is guaranteed to cause a reaction.”
Napier says Catholics should “fast” from displaying and consuming Red Bull until Easter, to send a message to the company.
“In this way, Red Bull SA will understand that the idea that there is ‘no such thing as bad publicity’ is dangerous territory when it comes to mocking religious symbols,” he says.
Napier suggests that people donate the money they would have spent on Red Bull to charities.
The Red Bull Jesus walks on water ad has also sparked outrage in Brazil, reports Christian Post and may be banned by the National Advertising Council (CONAR).
The controversial ad also provoked discussion on social media today. On a South African media-savvy blog The Sharmanator, it seems that Christians who commented were divided between those who found the Red Bull ad blasphemous and those who were not offended and felt that Christians should lighten up. There was however general consensus that the ad lacked in humour and creativity.