The controversy around the Easter Day ads by Peak Milk is still generating reactions – some feel that cultural sensitivity is an item that creative directors need to learn when planning their ads, while not a few believe that allowing cultural sensitivity to thrive in present day ad protocol will stifle creativity and render it bland. This school of thought is quick to add that while sex, religion, and culture have become the most spoken topics in developed economies, in Nigeria, we are still held down by issues.
The Christian Association of Nigeria – who has championed this cause says the Peak Milk Ad with the copy: “Stripped of His garment but never of His goodness” with the image of a dented tin of Peak milk, insults the sensitivity of Christians. And that the image and person of Jesus Christ should never have been compared to a tin of milk.

First argument: If advertising is not allowed to subjective interpretation, then it is not a product of creativity anymore; it is just research.

Subjectivity is the quality of being based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. It is someone looking at a phallic art piece and interpreting it as the sanctity of abstinence. Human beings cannot be opinionatedly boxed. Our experiences, background, upbringing, exposure, belief, and many other psychological and socio-economic factors influence our opinion of something. Humans are also dynamic, which means that our views about a concept change over time.
We conducted a bit of primary research on what people thought about the Peak advertisement, independent of CAN’s judgment. A few people opined that the ad was insensitive to the Christian faith and trivialized Christian doctrine. They thought this because if this was a Muslim celebration, the consequences would be graver. Muslims are known to be more sensitive and dogged when it comes to matters of the Muslim faith.

The second group argued that Peak’s representation of Easter adopts brand humanization in that it applies the human touch of reasoning to a transcendent concept that can be interpreted in a lot of ways. This same group had mentioned that the ad was illustrative – a method of teaching used in most Christian denominations – so, it was only a representation of the resurrection, just like in cinematic, theatrical, and pictorial adaptations of Biblical concepts.

Therefore, creativity – something borne out of the imagination of these dynamic, different humans – should be equivocal.

Second argument: Where, then, is the line between cultural insensitivity and creativity?

Red Shoe Movement describes cultural sensitivity as the awareness of the cultural differences and similarities between people without assigning value to them – better or worse, positive or negative, right or wrong. In advertising, it means appreciating the differences between a new market and the brand home market. 

Culture is an umbrella term that encompasses the customs, food, arts, religion, language, colour, fashion, habits, etc., of a group of people. It is another influencing factor on a person’s interpretation of something or everything.

Dove ad of 2017

Take the Dove ad of 2017 for instance. As a part of Dove’s Facebook campaign that included a series of photos that were supposed to show women getting clean, they had a photo of a black woman taking off her shirt with the help of Dove and transforming into a white woman. Granted, black people – a people classified and identified by their colour – around the world had something to say about the racist denotation of the ad. The ad was interpreted as offensive, and rightfully so. Why? Because it subtly acknowledged white supremacy by depicting the black people as negative and wrong.

This is a case of cultural insensitivity.

The Peak advert controversy, on the other hand, might be teetering on the brink of cultural insensitivity, but from our research, there is a lot of honest creativity within it.

Those different schools of thoughts beg the question – “is CAN’s offense claim an attempt to be dogged, or was the ad truly a moral desecration of the resurrection?”

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