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Friday, 20 March 2009

God is the idea.

In an attempt to deliver themselves from the evil of mediocrity and the wickedness of the commonplace, increasingly now advertising creatives are beginning to question one of the very core tenets of their trade: the existence of the idea as God. Over the last year or two, the deity has been re-born in execution or in some cases media, much to the acclaim of the award judges and online ad hunters all over; but for the first time ever our neat advertising axiom has been completely turned on its head: God now is the idea (or not depending on which London bus stop you're at.)

In a moment of absurd evangelical atheism, writer Ariane Sherine decided to counter what she saw as threatening religious rhetoric promising hell and damnation to non-Christians – and what started out as a vain plea on The Guardian's CIF blog has transformed into a world-wide and web-wide cult.

The Atheist Bus Campaign – originally to be funded entirely by public donations (Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, donated more than £5000) but ultimately largely sponsored by The Humanist Association – has garnered more PR than any single piece of marketing in the last year, the buzz including several Guardian articles and two Scamp blog posts attracting over one hundred comments each.

For all its striking design and cocky pink copy, the ad has a shamefully obvious strategic flaw. The inclusion of 'probably' – admittedly forced on the advertisers by the Advertising Standards Agency, but embraced by both Sherine and Dawkins – puts the proposition more than a step away from atheism. In fact, it makes the line fatally agnostic.

And considering Sherine's initial issue with the pro-Christian propaganda (that it was errant and unsubstantiated) this piece seems oddly much the same, except that – and this is my second qualm – it’s trying to spread or unsell a faith.

It's one thing promoting rational, empirical, science-based atheism but it seems a little below the belt (and a real sin in the ad agency world) to base a campaign on the possible shortcomings of your competitors. Rather than making futile attempts to disprove a faith – and funding the cocaine habits of London-based media buyers – why not be part of the solution for our dying earth and put your energy into a real cause?


SimonHumanEye said...

Great copy.. it's particularly interesting that these 'great minds' should choose a tag-line with so little meaning - 'now stop worrying, and enjoy your life'..??

Rupert James said...

Thanks, Si.

I agree. It seems the noughties has been blighted by hollow concepts and flat, banal lines. Puma's 'Hello', for instance, is real evidence that the idea is no longer God.