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Monday, December 7, 1998 Published at 20:17 GMT


Nativity lager ad scrapped

The offending advertisement: Now the posters are going down

Brewers Whitbread have withdrawn an advertising campaign for Heineken lager making light of Jesus Christ's birth, following protests from Christians.

The ads featured a traditional nativity scene complete with three wise men, shepherds, and a star of Bethlehem shining above.

But Joseph was depicted rushing out of the stable proclaiming: "It's a girl."

Now Whitbread has scrapped the campaign after it was criticised by church leaders.

'Alarmed' by media coverage

In a statement, the company said: "We would like to apologise profusely for the campaign. We researched the advertisement thoroughly and the overwhelming majority of people found the advertisement to be humorous.

"But recent media coverage alarmed us, and we commissioned further research which found that 10% of people were offended, and 70% thought that other people would be offended."

Whitbread said the advertisement was part of a series of three designed to show a "refreshing" take on familiar scenes.

The company risked having to submit future promotions to the Advertising Standards Authority for approval if it continued with the campaign.

New guidelines were brought in following uproar over posters for French Connection clothes stores and Talk Radio.

But it denies stirring up the furore on purpose. "We certainly did not set out to cause offence, and it was in no way a deliberate strategy to be shocking to gain publicity."

The nativity posters are now being replaced with the other two in the series, featuring footballers with unflattering descriptions on their shirts and a pigeon covered in bird droppings.

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