Humorous Australian Show Gets Ad Agencies to Promote Banning of Religion

The Australian TV show The Gruen Transfer include a segment called “The Pitch” during which advertising agencies compete to promote something radical (“Euthanize everyone over 80!”) and have a panel of experts judge their ads. Recently, one topic was so controversial that they had ad agencies declining the invite to appear on the show (and capitalize on the free publicity).

The topic: “Banning religion is a good idea.”

Two agencies gave it a shot, though, and here’s how it went down:

So… when’s this show coming to America? (What’s that? Never? Got it.)

I like both ads, even though they appeal to different types of people. One tactic neither company used was simply stating that evidence-based thinking is better for all of us and superstition gets us away from that. Even though I know no one actually supports “banning” religion, how would you have promoted the message?

(via Dangerous Minds)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Rich Wilson

    I liked the first one better.  I guess I’m just bothered by “Think of the Children!!!” as an argument.

    That said, my approach would be a much shorter version of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Perimeter of Ignorance” talk, which is kinda sorta what #1 did.

  • Dominic Hinkins

    What does it say about religion that they were all terrified of displeasing it?

    • Kevin Bates

      They weren’t terrified of religion itself, rather that religious nuts wouldn’t understand that it is parody.  It was meant to showcase their advertising chops by selling an unsellable idea.  Not surprisingly, the uneducated masses came blasting in calling for this show to be banned, or the ad agencies boycotted.  Scrolling through the YouTube comments is an order of magnitude worse than normal…

      When everyone insists upon a lie, stating unpopular fact can get you in trouble.  That’s not the way it should be, but the way it has been.

  • Anonymous

    They were both outstanding, but I loved #1.  It illustrates how I feel about all of the silly things man believed to be true at some point so why do we still believe in imaginary friends still?  Loved that comment by the 2nd judge about imaginary friends.  And it’s obvious the final judge is a believer, calling them both good “in a bad way.”   Can someone with tons of cash buy them and show them over here on a daily basis, please.  :-)

  • http://profiles.google.com/asecretagentwoman secret agent woman

    I’d narrowly vote for #1, although I think the second one highlighting the violence done in the name of religion is important.  However, my own non-belief is more tied to the lunacy of clinging to primitive belief systems, which the first ad captured.

  • Eche Luis09

    The reason I support 2 is that the add was about banning religion. If you are going
    to ban something you have to show the harm it does.  Astrology for example is
    totally obsolete but that is not an argument for banning it.  The second add
    speaks of the harm caused by religion which is a better reason to ban something
    than just the fact that it is not true. 

    • Anonymous

      You make a very compelling argument for the #2 ad.  Thinking about it that way, it is the better of the 2.

  • http://twitter.com/deanrobertsnet Dean Roberts

    Do atheists really want to just get rid of religion? I thought you were all up for the whole ‘every man to his own’ sort of thing?

    http://deanroberts.net

    • Anonymous

      We* want to make religion an irrelevant** pastime, like Civil War re-enactment or badminton. No one is out there trying to ban knitting.

      *Obviously, I speak only for myself, though I think most Gnus would agree.
      **Irrelevant to the public at large and to government and public policy. We don’t care how relevant it is to individuals (except maybe when it comes to forcing children to participate…).

      • Anonymous

        Where’s writerdd when you need a comment about knitting and atheism.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1535286477 Roxane Farrell Murray

        You will pry my needles out of my cold, dead hands!

    • Greg

      Some atheists do, some don’t. Like anything other than whether there’s a god, chances are between us our views cover a wide spectrum. Some atheists I know consider religion to be a good thing, many others consider it antithetical to their morals. 

      We don’t really go in for manifestos!

      Personally, I’ll admit I’m someone who sees very little in the way of redeeming features in religion, but I still wouldn’t dream of trying to ban it, because it would go against (many) core values of mine. I can only speak for myself though.

    • Anonymous

      If it comes down to Perry or Bachmann being elected and trying to force a theocracy on the rest of the population via the Presidency, I would definitely endorse banning religion. 

      Note that I’m not saying we ban a belief in God (which would be patently impossible).  Organized religion is what is bad here.  It turned the notion that there is a being out there who created us and nurtures us and cares about us into politics and business and abuse of power. 

      If everyone would just allow each other the right to maintain their own spiritual beliefs and faith and stop trying to use that to pass laws and manipulate others to believe as well, the entire world would be a lot better off.  But man appears to be incapable of doing that right now.

    • Anonymous

      I want religion to go the way of the dinosaur.  I want humanity to move beyond belief in gods or mystical forces that shape our fate.  I think it’s past time we grew up and took some responsibility for our actions instead of looking to a god or gods to fix things.

      I would wholeheartedly support a campaign of education and enlightenment whose aim was to rid the world of religion.  I would not support one that sought to restrict people’s freedom to practice things that I consider anachronistic and foolish.

      Getting rid of religion and allowing people the freedom to practice their religions are not mutually exclusive ideas.

    • Kaydenpat

      Even if they wanted to, I’m not sure that atheists could get rid of religion.  Even in anti-religious communist countries, there were (are) people who held onto their religious beliefs.  In China and Cuba, there are thousands of Christians.  You cannot ban religion — although you can ban religious activities.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2X5VRDLDEHIGUPRUFSNFCYUMOA Tom

    The Gruen Transfer is the best show on TV here in Australia. The basic format is ad creators discussing how various products are sold, leavened by a typically robust Aussie humour. As such, it is an excellent promoter of critical thinking. This is from (I think) season 4, and I am honestly bewildered by the fact that it has never been picked up in other reasons as it is very popular and must cost buttons to make.

    The title is interesting too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gruen_transfer

  • MakeTheMostOfLife

    1st one for me by far…. Second one nice message about the violence, but the children running in slow mo was cheesy as hell

  • http://www.facebook.com/chriswarr78 Chris Warren

    The tagline ‘Let’s lose religion, and find each other’, is what sold me. So many people live their lives completely unconcerned with the basic mechanics, and underlying truths of the universe. In effect, they are comfortable with relativism, and superstitious explanations as place cards for reality. I believe the concept of Oneness, and unity would appeal to factualists and relativists alike.

  • mysciencecanbeatupyourgod

    @twitter-24143444:disqus – “atheist” describes anyone who does not subscribe to any organized religion’s idea of God.
    Atheists can be rational or not, scientifically minded or not, and can be varying degrees of passiveness or assertiveness in their non-belief.
    Hemant is a “friendly atheist” – he is active, but he picks his battles and takes the approach that we’re not getting anywhere if our representatives come off as confrontational assholes. Believe me, there are plenty of confrontational asshole atheists and for them I apologize, but understand that most atheists become active or confrontational or assholic at the same point you would – when they feel someone else’s religion encroach on their lives.
    Personally, I think any faith based thinking is dangerous. To accept anything on faith is to deny every other possibility. Someone asking you to accept something without evidence is trying to sell you something. The current Republican stance that science is a liberal opinion that should be rejected by right thinking Americans is downright terrifying. A world without superstition would go a long way to solve a lot of the world’s other problems.
    Despite all that, I am absolutely 100% AGAINST banning religion. No one changes beliefs because of duress, indeed, that usually strengthens it as many religions have found when trying to ban other religions. Free thought is why I love this country and the attacks that certain religions make against free thought are a big part of why I have issues with religion. People should be free to worship as they like but understand where their faith ends and science begins; and that religious belief cannot be taught as science nor used to base medical policy on.

  • mysciencecanbeatupyourgod

    So consider -
    France banning burkhas in public – I oppose. People of faith should be able to observe modes of public appearance as outlined by their faith providing they are not appearing as such to be considered an assault (public nudity, etc)
    BUT
    Disneyland not wanting to let that Muslim girl wear her head scarf on the job – I support. Disneyland uses the rationale that the staff is a “cast” and the uniforms are costumes. If you were an actor in a play you couldn’t keep your headscarf on if the character wouldn’t wear it. If you want a job at “Hooters” and your religion said you had to cover your legs up, you can’t do the job!
    But that’s just me. Like I said an atheist can have any number of beliefs, all we share is the lack of one important one.

    • Anonymous

      Indeed! It’s always frustrated me that someone religious can get special treatment under various countries’ job codes. Someone who declares themselves as Christian for example can guarantee themselves Sundays off, even over someone who has more senority than them. Anything declared as religious clothing by an established religion pretty much HAS to be allowed, even if it means the employee can’t wear the uniform or meet the dress code that everyone else is subject to.

      These are not anti-discrimination laws. They’re special, preferential treatment. :

    • Greg

      What’s so bad about public nudity? :( 

      I’m only half kidding with that, actually – I can understand hygienic reasons you might want it banned, but I suspect the biggest reason many people don’t like it is that it offends their sensibilities.

      Also, I have no problem with a ban on any religious clothing if it is part of a more general thing:

      E.g. if jewellery is not allowed at someone’s work, then that includes crosses. If face coverings are not allowed for any reason (whether security or otherwise) then sorry, but religious veils aren’t allowed either.

      The latter is the so-called ‘burkha ban’, and as a result – maybe it makes me a ‘bad atheist’, ‘bad liberal’ or bad whatever else – but I don’t have an issue with it. All head-coverings are banned in France, whether worn by Muslim, non-Muslim, male, or female.

      • Kevin S.

        The problem is the ban was specificly targeting Muslims. What you said is no different than anti-gay people claiming that banning SSM isn’t discriminatory since everybody is free to marry someone of the opposite sex.

        • Greg

          That is both untrue and a false analogy even if it were true.

          The ban was NOT specifically targeting Muslims – as I said in the original post. It was specifically targeting people wearing face coverings. The ban was made for security and societal reasons – it is being banned for the same reasons that balaclavas are banned in the same situations. 

          Facial masks are not being banned because some coverings are Islamic, the Islamic (and other religious) face coverings are being banned because they are facial masks.

          It strikes me that because Muslims made the biggest outcry against it you have automatically assumed that it was done to spite Muslims, which is – of course – utterly illogical. It is also worth pointing out that even if this was inspired by the terrorist attacks done by a group of Muslims, it would still not be specifically targeting Muslims: if it had been a non-Muslim group wearing another form of mask, then the law would be exactly the same, and therefore this cannot (by definition) be a prejudiced law against Muslims. What any Muslim who protests against the law is doing, is demanding religious privilege.

          As for the analogy, well, a better one would be anti-gay people claiming that banning all marriage isn’t discriminatory because no-one would then be allowed to marry anybody.

          And in that case, the hypothetical anti-gay people would actually be spot on. (Of course, no anti-gay person would ever say that…)

          If you don’t see why your analogy is so flawed: in your analogy, ‘marriage’ has to take the place of ‘face coverings’. In the French ban against masks, all masks are outlawed. In your analogy, not all marriages are outlawed.

          If other groups were allowed to wear facial masks, and Muslims weren’t – then (and only then) would the analogy be valid.

  • Annie

    “No one had a problem when we wanted to bring back child labor, invade New Zealand, or euthanize everyone over eighty, but this idea scared people.”  This right here speaks volumes.    I liked number one best, but thought they were both well done.  I’m with rlrose328- how can we get these on the air??

    • Ben

      You can’t. Last year one ad agency did a really great ad about climate change, but it wasn’t allowed to be broadcast other than in the show because the ad itself became property of the broadcaster, which is itself government funded.

      • Annie

        Too bad.  This show is really federally funded??  In the US, we have very few federally funded shows (though they do throw stimulus money out to attract work sometimes).  This would be equivalent to having my tax dollars fund The Daily Show… I would much prefer that than paying for Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

        • Matt

          The Gruen Transfer is broadcast on the ABC, which is a non-profit government funded station.

          • http://www.facebook.com/maik.both Maik Both

            And, I should add – the ABC is much beloved by Australians and seen as having (for the most part) a very high standard of journalism. TGT is a bloody good show!

    • Pseudonym

      This right here speaks volumes.

      I’m a regular watcher of this brilliant show, and it’s interesting to see how different agencies interpret the Pitch.

      Most of the Pitches are flatly ridiculous, like invading New Zealand, and the agencies treat it with all the seriousness the idea deserves. It’s rare for an agency to take the Pitch seriously. When it does, it’s often brilliant.

      This Pitch was slightly different, because neither campaign was clearly tongue-in-cheek, or clearly highlighting a serious issue. It definitely wasn’t up to the usual standard, and I suspect it couldn’t have been. The more experienced agencies who refused probably spotted the problem a mile away: you couldn’t make a joke out of the brief, and you couldn’t take it seriously either.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1535286477 Roxane Farrell Murray

        Alas, the link has expired.

  • Beijingrrl

    I liked #1 because it appealed to reason.  It appears that the religious folks on the show liked #2 more because it was emotional.  Kinda makes me think we’re never going to get through to most believers through reason and using emotion seems manipulative to me.  Sigh.

  • Mr Z

    Why ban religion? Why not simply relegate it to the  same kettle of fish as ‘believing that elvis is still alive’ and ‘believing ufo/alien abductions really happen’ … you know, the kind of thing that normal people snicker at openly and give people that ‘OMG your a lunatic” look when they profess belief in gods.

    teen 1: Why is your sister so weird?
    teen 2: it’s nothing, just that … she believes in god

    comic: My wife is crazy. No, I mean really crazy. She believes in god crazy badumpba

    coworker 1: That guy in accounting is so creepy
    coworker 2: Yeah, I know, he believes in god

    Define miracle: An act or event that was destined to happen but is blamed as the result of the actions of an invisible friend. In short order, miracles will be the things that get little johnny spanked when mom gets home.

    I think that scripture from the holy texts should be advertised in bold signs. You know, some of those passages about slavery over a picture of a basketball game, or stoning unruly children over the picture of a hospital delivery room, or stoning adulterers over a picture of a couple at a restaurant. Perhaps even a passage or two where god orders genocide written over a picture of Rwandan violence, or maybe the passage about those who eat shellfish over a picture of sea food.

    The holy books all have crap like this in them and should be enough to make everyone think. Having to vehemently defend your holy text will put you off of believing in it. Most people won’t do things if they are too difficult.

    How about a big sign that says
    ‘God is love’ – Leviticus 25:44-46

    There are  literally hundreds more…

  • rhodent

    All in all I thought the second ad was better (I agree with the third panelist’s comments about emotional appeal), but I think that the inclusion of 9/11 footage would backfire if the ad actually aired in America.  Most Americans still have a very visceral reaction to 9/11 (wait until this coming Sunday and check out your Facebook feed if you don’t believe me), and I think many if not most people vieweing the ad would see that and immediately react by thinking “How DARE they use 9/11 footage to promote their agenda!”  At that point, they would quit listening to the ad, which means the ad would fail.  I would replace that footage with abother example of Islamic terrorism (perhaps something from the 1972 Olympic massacre?).  Aside from that, however, I think it’s a strong ad.

    • Newavocation

      “How DARE they use 9/11 footage to promote their agenda!”? Judging from yesterday, it seems just about every religious organization, Southwest Airlines, the NFL and MLB all used 9/11 to promote their agendas.

  • Dan W

    I liked them both, but number 1 a little more than 2. Had a pretty catchy phrase at the end of it too.

  • http://www.loudclear.com.au Loud & Clear

    Hi, I’m from Loud and Clear, the agency in Melbourne that created the first ad in the segment.  It’s been interesting reading all the comment and discussion (good and bad) – it was definitely a challenging brief.

    More than anything, the segment is about advertising technique, and it’s amazing how even the most way-out ideas can somehow seem almost reasonable when you present them with nice looking visuals, bouncy music and a trustworthy sounding voiceover.  That’s really what the show is about.

    Thanks again for all the feedback.  http://www.loudclear.com.au

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

    I love how they ended up showing that much of the anti-religion rhetoric is simply ‘spin’ used to sell a bad idea (an idea they linked with reintroducing child slavery). 

    This is an own-goal for anti-religionists IMO.

    • Greg

      … 

      Okay, I’ll bite.First you’d have to show that these adverts were being done by people who were anti-religious for it to be an own goal. (If you watched the clip, then you’d know it wasn’t…) 

      Then you’d have to show that people with anti-religious views must actually want to ban religion for it to be an own goal. (Just to help you, I’m arguably anti-religious, and I don’t want to ban it…)

      Then you’d have to get past the fact that you’ve just committed a fallacy of the guilt by association variety.

      Apart from all that… you’re completely correct!

      • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

        Well no.. I simply noted that the tongue-in-cheek ads to sell the “unsellable” bad idea of banning religion just happens to sound a whole lot like the kind of stuff I actually hear anti-religionists (who presumably don’t actually want to ban religion) say.. (I note also that neither ad mentions banning religion)

        • Greg

          So what you are essentially saying is that because it is considered an unsellable idea, everything about it must necessarily be bad?

          I’m sure trying to ban paedophilia in the Catholic Church (not that they are the only church to indulge in it…) would be unsellable to most of the priests, too

          Sorry, that was probably a low blow.

          The point is, though, that even though in a certain climate of people something can’t be sold, it still says nothing about that idea’s worth. Trying to persuade people that the world was round, and orbiting the sun would have been an unsellable idea in the long distance past.

          It’s still a fallacy of Guilt by Association you’re committing, btw.

      • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

        It’s an ‘own goal’ in the case of anti-religionists praising this ads.. 

  • Newavocation

    I’d be just happy with religious organizations losing their tax exempt status so they get to be on the same level as fortune tellers.

    • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

      .. and so they can openly endorse political candidates. 


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