The New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority has rejected complaints against a billboard that shows Pope Benedict XVI blessing a gay marriage.

The four-and-a-half storey billboard, erected in Auckland and Wellington, was part of a campaign for electricity supplier Powershop, with the tagline “same power different attitude”.

In a complaint to the authority, B. Pender, said the advert “is offensive to me as a Christian as it features two males exchanging rings as part of a marriage ceremony in the presence of The Pope… it is attempting to imply that The Catholic Church and The Vatican condone same sex marriage despite no formal communication of said claim.”

After considering the complaint, the authority’s Chair, Jenny Robson, noted that the advert referred to a same-sex marriage bill currently before Parliament, which the Catholic Church opposed.

She stated that the ad “was another example of the advertiser’s strategy of using irony and humour and in keeping with the advertiser’s campaign slogan of ‘same power different attitude'”.

While acknowledging the offence the advert had caused the complainants, Robson said that it “did not reach the threshold to be said to cause serious or widespread offence in light of generally prevailing community standards. Neither did it breach the due sense of responsibility to consumers and to society”.

As such, the authority ruled that it would take no action against the advert.

In a post on its blog, Powershop said that it “has always supported the idea of individual choice and control,” adding that “like previous editions, this latest version of Powershop’s long-running campaign is intended to be both thought provoking and satirical”.

It went on to say: “Kiwis have widely debated the issue of marriage equality over the last year, so we’ve used the issue to point out that large institutions can sometimes lose touch with their modern constituents… We live in a world that has embraced freedom and equality. If something’s working for you and it’s not hurting anyone else, then we support your right to do it.

“We also believe it’s the responsibility of anybody in a position of power to consider whether their exercise of that power is bringing a greater or lesser happiness to the world.”


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