A poster of Demi Lovato wearing a bondage-style outfit and lying on a crucifix-shaped bed has been banned for causing offence to Christians.
*Warning: This article contains language that some readers may find offensive.
The title of the singer’s new album clearly alluded to a swear word and, together with the image, linked sexuality to a sacred symbol, the advertising watchdog found.
Polydor Records said it was artwork designed to promote the album and did not believe it to be offensive.
The poster was removed after four days.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it had received complaints relating to the “image of Ms Lovato bound up in a bondage-style outfit whilst lying on a mattress shaped like a crucifix”.
The singer was “in a position with her legs bound to one side which was reminiscent of Christ on the cross,” it added.
Together with title of the album “Holy Fvck”, the ASA found the poster was “likely to be viewed as linking sexuality to the sacred symbol of the crucifix and the crucifixion”. This was was likely to cause serious offence to Christians, it said.
Demi Lovato’s eighth album, released in August 2022, documents her complicated journey through alcohol and drug addiction, mental health issues, treatment and recovery.
She started writing it after a voluntary stint in rehab in December 2021 and told the BBC: “I’m not playing pop music anymore. This is a rock album.”
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The singer is not the first to spark controversy in religious circles. Madonna’s Like a Prayer video was condemned by Christian organisations as blasphemous when it was released in 1989.
It showed the singer dancing around burning crosses and kissing a black Christ-like figure in a church. In 1992, her Erotica video saw her banned from the Vatican and the video could only be shown in the early hours.
The ASA also received complaints that the poster promoting Demi Lovato’s album was irresponsibly placed where children could see it.
It was put up in six places across London before being taken down on 23 August 2022.
The ASA found that the title of the album would be clear to most readers that this alluded to a swear word.
As the poster appeared in a public place where children were likely to be able to see it, the ASA “considered that the ad was likely to result in serious and widespread offence and had been targeted irresponsibly”.
Polydor Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Ltd, said that before publication, they had checked with agency Brotherhood Media that the poster was acceptable to run on the proposed sites. The agency had provided an assurance that it was, and Polydor had proceeded on that basis, it said.
The BBC has approached Brotherhood Media for comment.
The ASA ruled that the poster must not appear again in the form complained of unless it was suitably targeted. It told Universal Music Operations Ltd to ensure their adverts did not cause serious or widespread offence in future.
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