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Just trolling: It's OK to poke fun at Christians, says ASA

Film ad claimed monsters can smell God botherer blood

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The fact that trolls can smell Christian blood is well-known, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has ruled, and a reference to it in a fake job advert used to promote a film was unlikely to cause widespread offence, it said today.

After receiving two complaints about the advert "Troll Hunters Required" listed in The Guardian's Jobs section, the watchdog investigated the ad for breach of their Harm and Offence and Social Responsibility guidelines.

But today the ASA quashed the claim, ruling that the line "TROLLS CAN SMELL GOD-FEARING BLOOD – CHRISTIANS NEED NOT APPLY" might be distasteful but was not offensive. The ASA said the advert was a "light-hearted play on the fairy-tale theme" that most readers would recognise as a reference to an old myth.

The spoof ad, titled "Troll Hunters required", ran in The Guardian newspaper and on Guardian Online, as part of a media campaign to drive consumers to the Troll Hunter Facebook page to "apply" for the positions. The advert read:

TROLL HUNTERS REQUIRED: APPLICANTS MUST HAVE EXPERIENCE OF HUNTING LARGE GAME, MUST BE COMFORTABLE WORKING INDEPENDENTLY AND AT NIGHT. TROLLS CAN SMELL GOD-FEARING BLOOD – CHRISTIANS NEED NOT APPLY. COMPETITIVE SALARY ON COMMISSION.

Momentum Pictures defended the advert saying "that mythical stories about trolls told how they were able to smell Christian blood; a theme that featured in the film".

One further Guardian reader complained to the ASA that it was misleading to list the advert in the jobs section when it wasn't a job, but the agency ruled that the references to blood and trolls make clear that it was a "fantastical and fictional" piece.

Though the ASA has put it in the clear, Momentum Pictures has replaced its original wording with a softer, less religion-specific message: "Trolls can smell God-fearing blood, believers apply at their own risk." ®

Top three mobile application threats

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