RACC Christmas guidelines
religious themes – the Christmas story
Care must be taken when using religious themes in advertising and the Christmas period needs particular care. For some listeners, Christmas is above all, a religious festival so the re-working of biblical stories, prayers or religious passages to help sell commercial products and services may cause offence. This means that it’s unlikely that a creative treatment based around the nativity would be cleared. However, an exception can be made for creative treatments based around school nativity plays, provided they are done in a way that is not disrespectful to the nativity story itself.
here we come a-wassailing
The use of Christmas carols in radio advertisements requires similar care.
Some listeners may find the use of carols to promote pre-Christmas selling as exploitative. Tasteful use of carols may be acceptable, if the subject matter is relevant, for example, in the case of an ad for a concert performance or a carol service. It would be inappropriate, however, for religious music to be re-worked to advertise an unrelated product.
Sales messages, advertising slogans, jingles etc. have, in the past, replaced the lyrics of some Christmas Carols, but care has been taken to ensure that the choice of lyrics does not deride or mock the carol or religion in general.
The previous use of Christmas carols in advertisements has resulted in the lists below.
Acceptable as background music or with lyrics changed sensitively
- Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly
- Jingle Bells
- Good King Wenceslas
- I saw Three Ships
- On the First Day of Christmas
- We Wish You a Merry Christmas
- The Holly and the Ivy
- 12 Days of Christmas
Acceptable as background music only
- Silent Night
- See Amid the Winter Snow
- Ding Dong Merrily on High
- Little Town of Bethlehem
Unacceptable in all non-religious circumstances
- Come All Ye Faithful
- Hark, the Herald Angels Sing
- Once in Royal David’s City
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
- Good Christian Men Rejoice
- We Three Kings
- Whilst Shepherds Watched
- The First Noel
- Away in a Manger
- Joy to the World
the festive spirits
In the season to be jolly, ads still must not condone or encourage excessive drinking. They also must not link the consumption of alcohol to social success; therefore, describing Christmas booze as a necessity or something that will help the office party go with a swing is unacceptable. For more details on rules about alcohol, see BCAP rule 20.
The rules on portrayals of the consumption of alcohol are not meant to curtail ads intended to counter problem drinking or tell consumers about alcohol-related health or safety themes, such as in an anti-drink-driving campaign.
Does Father Christmas exist?! References to whether he is real or not real need care; for example, ads are unlikely to be cleared that are of particular appeal or are specifically directed to children that suggest that he doesn’t exist as this may upset younger listeners.
If you have questions about any of these special regulations please contact us.