DDB France Pulls Religious VW Ads

Catholics Receive Apology, Charitable Donation for ‘Hurt Feelings’
PARIS–A lawsuit brought by a group of French Catholics against DDB France and Volkswagen France has been dropped following the cancellation of a controversial ad campaign and an apology from the defendants.
The suit was filed over DDB’s posters for the VW Golf. One of the ads depicted a satirical version of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. The scene showed a contemporary, long-haired young man proclaiming to his table companions, “My friends, let us rejoice, because a new Golf is born.” Another poster featured an apparent allusion to St. Francis. It featured a long-haired man in a robe holding what appeared to be two trash bags. A copy line read: “As soon as he experienced the new Golf, Francis was converted.”
The legal basis of the suit was unclear, but the plaintiffs, Croyances et Libertƒs (Belief and Liberty) claimed the ads misused religious imagery and caused offense to practicing Catholics. The settlement also resulted in the agency and its client making a donation to the charity Secours Catholique (Catholic Emergency). The suit had asked for 2.5 million francs, or about $415,000 in damages. One source said the gift was less than the amount asked for in the suit.
Belief and Liberty counts some 110 bishops and other French religious figures as members, including Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris, considered by some to be a possible successor to Pope John Paul II.
“We don’t want to censor, but in public life we have symbols and images which can hurt the feelings of Christians,” said Monsignor Bernard Lagoutte, who leads the association.
Calls to DDB for comment were not returned by press time. In their resolution statement, the parties wrote: “VW and DDB reaffirmed that they had wished no disrespect for the fundamental values of society nor for the beliefs of the faithful.”
Creative directors from shops including CLM/BBDO, TBWA, BL/LB (Leo Burnett) and Devarrieuxvillaret criticized the suit. One called it a blatant attempt at censorship.
Belief and Liberty has previously said that certain ad campaigns with humorous, religious themes were not offensive. At the same time, it has blasted other religious-themed ads, including a number developed for apparel retailer Benetton.

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