Helpnote – Christmas
Christmas – Carols, Religious Themes, Alcohol and Santa
To help us get to Christmas free of upheld complaints, Radiocentre has put together some advice and guidance for issues that come up more frequently during the run up to Christmas.
Carols and Religious Themes
Using carols and hymns and religious themes in radio ads in the run-up to Christmas needs particular care. Some listeners find this exploitative in the context of pre-Christmas selling. More leeway is given to secular carols than to religious music and hymns, and where the use of music is relevant to the product or service being advertised. The following bullet points provide general guidance:
- 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 is unlikely to be acceptable for religious music to be re-worked to advertise an explicit sales message or an unrelated product.
- Sales messages, straplines, jingles etc. may replace the lyrics of secular Christmas carols but care must be taken to ensure that the choice of lyrics do not deride or mock the carol or religious beliefs in general.
- The re-working of biblical stories, prayers or religious passages to help sell commercial products and services may cause offence; for example, use of the Christmas story. However, an exception is 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.
Based on experience, Radiocentre Clearance lists below various carols that customers have used in ads or queried. The secular ones may be acceptable with sensitively-adapted lyrics. The religious ones are less likely to be acceptable. In some cases they may be acceptable as background music only or if relevant to the product or service being advertised. Each piece of draft copy will be judged on a case-by-case basis.
Secular carols – more leeway
- 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
Religious carols – less leeway
- Silent Night
- See Amid the Winter Snow
- Ding Dong Merrily on High
- Little Town of Bethlehem
- O 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
Alcohol ads, as always, must not condone or encourage excessive drinking or link the consumption of alcohol to social success; for example, implying that Christmas booze is a necessity or will help the office party go with a swing is unacceptable. However, this policy is not meant to curtail ads intended to counter problem drinking or inform consumers about alcohol-related health or safety themes, such as anti-drink driving campaigns.
Santa Claus/Father Christmas
References to whether Santa Claus/Father Christmas is real or not real need care; for example, it is unlikely that an ad of particular appeal to children would be cleared if it implied that he doesn’t exist as this may upset younger listeners.