The publicity for Phones 4 U, which was used in the national press on April 21 this year, showed Jesus with the Sacred Heart on his chest and the slogan “Miraculous deals on Samsung Galaxy Android phones”.
The ASA said: “We considered that, although the ads were intended to be light-hearted and humorous, their depiction of Jesus winking and holding a thumbs-up sign, with the text “miraculous” deals during Easter, the Christian Holy Week which celebrated Christ’s resurrection, gave the impression that they were mocking and belittling core Christian beliefs.
“We therefore concluded that the ads were disrespectful to the Christian faith and were likely to cause serious offence, particularly to Christians.”
A total of 98 people complained to the ASA, citing the cartoon depiction of Christ and the Sacred Heart, the use of the term “miraculous” and the fact that the advert was published on Maundy Thursday, close to Easter.
Phones 4 U said that it had not intended to cause offence or show disrespect for the Christian faith, instead aiming to show “a light-hearted, positive and contemporary image” of the religion.
However with the benefit of hindsight, and in the face of complaints from Christians, they “understood and regretted” that offence had been caused.
The adverts were withdrawn and the company sent individual apologies to everyone who complained.
The ASA also ruled that a musical TV advert for a train ticket website was misleading and cannot be used again. The advert for thetrainline.com included claims that customers saved 43 per cent on average, but this was based on a comparison between an advance ticket and the cheapest non-advance available.