Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) new advertisement for lamb was supposed to be edgy and quirky. The TV commercial intended to show that “no matter your beliefs, background or persuasion, the one thing we can all come together and unite over, is lamb,” said Andrew Howie, MLA’s marketing manager.
Within days, however, the lamb campaign “You never lamb alone” was referred to the Advertising Standards Bureau over its lack of sensitivity in portraying divinities and religious leaders.
The controversial advertisement (above) shows gods, prophets, messiahs of all faiths sitting together at a barbecue. The ad features Jesus, Moses, Aphrodite, Buddha, Ganesha, Zeus, Obi Wan Kenobi, and Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Mohammed, whose portrayal is considered highly offensive, conveniently calls to say he can’t make it.
The rest gather around a plate eating lamb, as the host addresses the table. “It’s a nightmare catering for you lot with your dietary requirements.”
The ad shows friendly banter between the gods. Aphrodite is the designated driver, so Jesus performs a “reverse miracle” turning her wine into water. Buddha asks the table, “Should we address the elephant in the room?” to which Ganesha aptly responds, “Not funny 2,500 years ago, not funny now.”
Hubbard, typical of scientology, starts pitching his religion, whereupon Moses butts in and requests him, “Let’s not get into religion at the table.” The ad deliberately reveals that the host is an atheist, prompting Ganesha to suggest that “we really need a better marketing team.”
Predictably, the advertisement has sparked a controversy. The depiction of Ganesh’s eating meat has not gone down well. What was supposed to paint a picture of unity and togetherness has turned into a battlefield. The Indian Society of Western Australia called the ad insensitive and called for MLA to apologise and pull it. Spokesman Nitin Vashisht said, “I don’t think they realise how revered a god Ganesha is...He is shown as eating lamb and looking for a new marketing strategy for himself (and that) is really very insensitive to the community.”
MLA’s response: “Our intent is never to offend, but rather acknowledge that lamb is a meat consumed by a wide variety of cultures and capture how the world could look if people left their differing views at the door and came to the table with open arms, and minds.”