Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has been forced to withdraw an advertising campaign featuring Jesus and the apostles gambling at the Last Supper following a deluge of complaints from outraged Christians.
The billboard posters, emblazoned with the slogan “There’s a place for fun and games,” adapted Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting of the event to show Jesus with a stack of poker chips and other apostles playing cards and roulette.
Ireland’s advertising watchdog, which ordered the posters to be taken down, said on Wednesday it had received more than 100 complaints — “as many as we’ve had about anything in the past.”
Another 100 objections, from members of the public and church leaders in the predominantly Roman Catholic country, were made directly to Paddy Power.
Frank Goodman, chief executive of the Advertising Standards Authority, said the advertisements had breached a combination of guidelines referring to taste and decency as well as religion.
“There’s also a general provision that ads should contain nothing that is likely to cause grave or widespread offense — this apparently has caused widespread offense,” he said.
An unrepentant Paddy Power took down its Last Supper posters around the Irish capital and replaced them with ones reading: “There’s a place for fun and games. Apparently this isn’t it.”
The firm’s spokesman, also called Paddy Power, said the campaign was intended to play off “the unique Irish sense of humor” and expressed disappointment at the ASA decision.
“We still don’t believe we’ve pushed the boundaries too far,” he said. “Some people just take this stuff too seriously.”
The campaign is just one of several with a religious theme to spark controversy.
Last week Sony apologized for an advertisement for the 10th anniversary of its PlayStation console which featured a man wearing a crown of thorns and the slogan “Ten years of passion.”
And French fashion designer Francois Girbaud, in another adaptation of Da Vinci’s Last Supper, showed Jesus as a woman with a table of glamorous disciples.