AussieMite Apologizes for Irreverent Ad—But Did They Really Mean It?

Comic posted on the AussieMite Facebook page, after their formal apology

Well, that was fast!  Now you see it, now you don’t.

This morning I wrote about an offensive commercial advertising a popular Australian yeast spread, AussieMite.  In the video, an attractive young woman approaches a bishop in the communion line to receive the Eucharist and then, to my horror, takes the consecrated host out of her mouth and dips it into a jar of the brown pasty stuff.  The bishop is first shocked, but then at her invitation he, too, dips a host into the jar.

My readers have been keeping me up-to-date with regard to the backlash following release of the clearly blasphemous commercial.

Apparently, the company’s campaign to have a good laugh at the expense of the Catholic Church has backfired.  Feedback has been extremely negative and Australia’s two largest grocery chains, facing consumer complaints, had threatened to take the product off their shelves.

The Catholic bishops in Australia have been decidedly low-key in their response, apparently trying not to add to the publicity.  Father Brian Lucas, general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said:

“It’s not done with any humour.  It’s been done as a deliberate strategy to cause offence to maximise publicity for a product that has no other means of attracting an audience.”

Within the last 24 hours, the company has apologized publicly and has removed the offending video from its Facebook page and other social media.  It’s still out there on YouTube (where I found it) and the ad agency website; but the company promises that those versions, too, will have been deleted by Monday.

They’ve posted numerous apologies on the company’s Facebook page, including this one:

To all our customers and anyone we may have upset with our ad. 

We sincerely apologise for any offence caused. It was never the intention to do so, but we recognise that for some it did. 

We have listened to your comments and removed any and all instances of the campaign from our social media channels.

We are a small family-owned company looking to establish ourselves and a product we believe in and love. 

We sincerely hope that this will not dissuade you from buying AussieMite in the future.

Best wishes,
AussieMite

 And this pitiful plea:

Sending some love to all those commenting about our ad… love… love… love

And this personal assurance:

Again, the ad was not to offend and we apologise for any offence taken. I wish you all well and hope that you can open your hearts and make peace with this situation. My best wishes, Elise

And this:

Hello everyone, 

The ad has been removed from our social media and we are taking action on your behalf regarding getting the ad removed via YouTube and various other channels. 

Please understand that we may not have a response until Monday, so we ask for your patience. 

Thank you. 

Best wishes, 
AussieMite

Don’t think, though, that there has been a change of heart on the part of the persons responsible for the ad.

In my first post I quoted the ad’s creator, Catholic-basher Mick Hunter, who said:

“We’re trying to track down [Cardinal] George Pell’s email and send it to him so he can blow it out of proportion.”

I should have reported Hunter’s second line: 

“It’s probably a bit sacrilegious to the faithful but they are dwindling in popularity as we speak.”

And a reader reported that when the complaints first began coming, someone in charge of AussieMite’s Facebook page tried to deflect criticism by posting links to articles regarding child-abusing priests.  (As if the sinful actions of a few members of the clergy justified hurling insults at God and the entire Church!)

Anyway, the story is wrapping up.  Consumers have spoken; and perhaps this incident will remind other corporations that it’s not good business to mess with people’s most strongly held beliefs.

If you’ve missed the video, check it out today, while you can still see it on YouTube.  Click here to see the link on my earlier post.

 

 

In Australia, Sacrilege Sells – UPDATED

In the ersatz world of Big Advertising, sex sells.  Apparently, so does outrageous blasphemy.

I just ran across this ad for the Australian spread AussieMite, depicting a young woman dipping a consecrated host into the brown paste, then offering it to the bishop.  “It’s sacrilicious!” the ad says.

The company describes its product as

“a delicious premium savoury spread, leading on taste, nutrition and the finest quality ingredients.  Yeast-based, non-GM and gluten-free, it re-defines a traditional staple for the 21st century.”

Sitting here on the other side of the world, I’m having trouble understanding why Grown-Ups, the Sydney advertising agency which produced this commercial, set out to deliberately offend God and 5.4 million Australian Catholics (25.3% of the population of that country).

Mick Hunter, the ad’s anti-Catholic creator, acknowledges the ad is intended to cause a stir, and hopes it will go viral. “We’re trying to track down [Cardinal] George Pell’s email,” Hunter explains, “and send it to him so he can blow it out of proportion.”

AussieMite’s director, Elise Ramsey, is a self-described Catholic.  She claims that no offense was intended, and that the ad played off the “topic of the moment,” the election of a new pope.  Ramsey said of the ad’s theme:

“We thought it was the topic of the moment. We wanted something that was a bit fun. It’s not in any way meant to be a strike against the Catholic Church. I’m Catholic and I don’t find it offensive. It’s simply meant to be a talking-piece. I hope that Australia finds it funny.”

Is this FUNNY?  Tell me what you think.

 

UPDATE:  AussieMite has apologized and pulled the offensive ad from their website, their Facebook page and other social media.  Read their apology and updates here.

Vegemite and Hot Cross Buns: A Rose By Any Other Name

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
–Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Today, my friends, two stories from the Land Down Under.

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, two young teenagers—Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet—meet and fall in love.   Their relationship is doomed from the start, since their families are enemies. Juliet tells her beloved Romeo that names are meaningless—that she loves the person who is called “Montague” and not his name and not the Montague family.

You know the rest:  Romeo, deeply in love with Juliet, rejects his family name and vows to “deny (his) father” and instead be “newly baptized” as Juliet’s lover.  The great tragedy is set in motion.

This classic work was brought to mind today, as I read of not one, but TWO implausible stories emanating from Australia—both involving a product name change.

VEGEMITE

The first is Kraft Foods’ iconic VEGEMITE, that dark brown Australian food paste made with brewer’s yeast.  Vegemite is one of the world’s richest known sources of B vitamins, specifically thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid. It contains no added fat, sugar, animal content or gluten.

In the weeks leading up to Australia Day (January 28), and to celebrate its 89th year, Vegemite is rebranding its jars to become simply “Australia.”  The new limited-edition brand will feature a map of Australia in place of its familiar red diamond-shaped logo.

Vegemite’s marketing director believes that this show of “contemporary Australian pride” will benefit the company.  That remains to be seen, since its last attempt at rebranding—a cheesier version of the snack which they called “iSnack 2.0”—was met with huge public backlash after only five days on the shelves.

Here in the U.S., not everyone is familiar with Vegemite; but it’s been enjoyed around the world for almost 90 years.  The success of the spread was due largely to a 1954 marketing campaign by J. Walter Thompson featuring smiling, happy and healthy children singing a catchy jingle, “We’re Happy Little Vegemites.”

We’re happy little Vegemites
As bright as bright can be.
We all enjoy our Vegemite
For breakfast, lunch, and tea.
Our mummies say we’re growing stronger
Every single week,
Because we love our Vegemite
We all adore our Vegemite
It puts a rose in every cheek.

If you’ve always wanted to know more about Vegemite, check out the original report.

But moving on to another name change:

HOT CROSS BUNS

Father Tony Kennedy, pastor of Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Burnie, Tasmania, has called for “Hot Cross Buns” to be called… well… simply “buns.”

Last week, as the Christmas season wound to a close, Woolworths and Coles supermarkets across Australia stocked their shelves with hot cross buns.  With thirteen weeks remaining before Easter, Father Tony explains that hot cross buns were originally eaten on Good Friday to remind people of the crucifixion.  If the sweet, fruit-filled hot cross buns are available year-round, Father Tony fears, their religious significance will be lost.  He asks the stores to remove the crosses, call the buns simply “buns”—and then sell “hot cross buns” just one day a year, on Good Friday.

Coles has responded, saying that it’s up to shoppers to decide how they would mark religious holidays.  Last year, the store chain sold more than 800,000 six-packs of hot cross buns during January alone.  It remains to be seen whether the Aussies will give up their hot cross buns until Good Friday!

By the way, Wikipedia offers an interesting report about the tasty treats.  The website quotes cooking writer Elizabeth David, who claims that Protestant English monarchs saw the buns as a dangerous hold-over of Catholic belief in England, since they were baked from the dough used in making communion wafers.  After unsuccessful efforts to ban the buns, Queen Elizabeth I passed a law permitting bakeries to sell them only at Easter and Christmas.

According to Wikipedia, English folklore includes many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns.  One of them says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or become moldy during the subsequent year.  Another encourages keeping such a bun for medicinal purposes.  A piece of it given to someone who is ill is said to help them recover.

Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if “Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be” is said at the time.  Because of the cross on the buns, some say they should be kissed before being eaten.  If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck.  If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly.  The hanging bun should be replaced each year.