Religious Complaint Gets TV Advert Axed

A christian viewer lodged a complaint with Advertising Standards of Authority stating that the AXE advert that depicts female angels falling from the sky because they are attracted to a man's deodorant,  is offensive to HIS beliefs. Hmm, and I thought this was a democratic state...

If you haven't seen the ad (where do you live?), it depicts winged, attractive women crashing to earth in from "heaven", then sniff and being drawn towards a young man who has used the AXE deodorant. The text at the end of the ad reads: “Even angels will fall”.

A viewer who complained to ASA about the advert said the suggestion that angels - God's messengers - would literally fall for a man wearing this deodorant was incompatible with his belief as a Christian, according to the ruling by the ASA's directorate made on October 14. 

Ok... so some Benjamin somewhere gets to decide what we can or cannot watch on our TV screens. I don't have an issue with people's personal beliefs but when their beliefs are imposed on us, then I have a serious problem with that. Where do we draw the line? 

UnileverSA was ordered to remove the ad in its current format. Apparently, the directorate was concerned that the angels were depicted falling and, secondly, being attracted to a mortal man.
“As such, the problem is not so much that angels are used in the commercial, but rather that the angels are seen to forfeit, or perhaps forego their heavenly status for mortal desires. This is something that would likely offend Christians in the same manner as it offended the complainant.”
Whaaaaaat? So does this mean any religious zealot can just lodge a complaint about what we see on our screens and it gets removed because it MAY offend other religious people too. Am I missing something here, because from what I gather the complaint came from one person and The Directorate concured with him and felt he represents Christians out there. Isn't that a bit absurd? Imagine how this could pan out in future. There are people out there who want to control us based on their personal beliefs. Now if ASA is just going to fall for any complaint they received without looking at its merit and how it affect the broader spectrum of society then we are in for collision course with our constitution.

This is why religion should never take precedence over human rights especially in a democratic country. Muslim people have their own beliefs that our TV adverts do not adhere to, what would happen if they started complaining that women should be covered on ads or pork products should not advertised. Are then just going to ban the ads? If we don't then aren't we being hypocritical and biased since we seem to take what the Christians have to complain about above individual right and constitutional right to choose what you want to see. 

I am sorry but I find this rather unreasonable that one person's view can force ASA to pull an ad on TV. 

Judgement in Detail


In essence, the complainant submitted that he was offended by the use of angels in the commercial. The fact that these winged creatures fall from the sky suggests that they are heavenly creatures. According to the Bible, angels are God's messengers, and the suggestion that angels will fall for a man wearing this deodorant is incompatible with his belief as a Christian.


The respondent submitted that the commercial depicts ladies with wings falling from the sky. They all go towards a man that they are attracted to as he is wearing AXE deodorant.

It added that the depiction of angels per se is not offensive and the depiction of angels coming down to earth cannot be regarded as offending the Christian religion. Angels do not belong solely to the Christian religion. Examples of religion that believe in angels are Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism and Protestant Christianity.

There is nothing in the commercial that attacks or discredits Christianity and there is no undermining of a core Christian belief. While angels may have their origin in religion and mythology, they have become a secular property. There are numerous cartoons, stories and movies about angels.


Clause 1 of Section II states, inter alia, that "No advertising may offend against good taste or decency or be offensive to public or sectoral values and sensitivities, unless the advertising is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom".

The complainant submitted that the commercial is offensive as it depicts angels, who are regarded as God's messengers, falling from heaven for a human wearing AXE deodorant.

The ASA acknowledges that South Africa is a multi-cultural society and recognizes that it is important to ensure that all religious faiths and beliefs, no matter how large or small the communities that practice them, are treated with the same consideration and respect.

The Directorate notes that the commercial is metaphorical and that the angels are meant to represent something more than simply beautiful women.

The commercial sets out to communicate that the new AXE fragrance is so irresistible that even angels will be enticed by it.

It is set in an Italian like town which is renowned for being romantic, it also has religious significance insofar as Catholicism is concerned. The setting adds to the religious ambience and shows angel-like creatures falling from the sky. The music in the background is reminiscent of a choir which goes with the theme of angels.

The concern with this is the fact that the "angels" are depicted as falling from the sky / heaven, which in itself has significant meaning, and secondly, that they are attracted to the young, mortal man.

An angel, according to Christian beliefs is God's heavenly messenger who obeys His commands. Angels also symbolise purity and goodness while "fallen angels" symbolise wickedness. Fallen angels are generally as angels that rebel against God, and are permanently banned from God's glory and presence.

The Directorate is also mindful of the fact that the angels are not simply coming to earth, or descending on earth, but falling, effectively crashing to earth, which supports the notion that they are fallen angels, presumably banished.

When it becomes apparent that they are falling from heaven over a man who wears this deodorant would be considered disrespectful and offensive to the core beliefs of Christians, as angels are known to be celestial beings regarded as divine and pure. The commercial therefore communicates that saintly creatures would give up their heavenly status and fall from grace for a man.

While the Directorate is mindful of the hyperbole employed by the respondent, it is not convinced that this is sufficient to negate the offence experienced by the complainant. Unlike the Virgin Mobile example highlighted by the respondent, this commercial takes place in the "real world", and not in the fantasy of the hero character.

The voice-over along with the tagline in the commercial state: "New AXE Excite. Even angels will fall." There is a close up toward the end of the commercial showing the angels smelling the young man which suggest that they are completely drawn to him. This adds to the impression that these celestial beings are being kicked out of heaven over their quasi lust for a human wearing this fragrance. Put differently, the angels fell from heaven over their desire for the man wearing this deodorant.

As such, the problem is not so much that angels are used in the commercial, but rather that the angels are seen to forfeit, or perhaps forego their heavenly status for mortal desires. This is something that would likely offend Christians in the same manner as it offended the complainant.

Based on the above the commercial is in contravention of Clause 1 of Section II of the Code.

The respondent is required to:
Withdraw the commercial in its current format;
The process of withdrawing the commercial must be actioned with immediate effect;
The process of withdrawing the commercial must be completed within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide, and
The commercial may not be used again in this format in future.

The complaint is upheld.

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