Even before they've actually seen the Vatican's new handbook stating what makes good and bad advertising, those who create ads are questioning its relevance.
"I think the Catholic Church has enough problems, and they shouldn't be worried about advertising," said Donny Deutsch, CEO of Deutsch, New York. "They should stick to religion, and we'll stick to advertising."
The full text of the handbook
In the making since 1993, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications' "Ethics in Advertising" handbook outlines the abuses and potential for harm of some advertising.
The guidelines reportedly acknowledge that advertising can be informative and entertaining but denounce shocking, exploitative ads.
While the handbook hasn't yet been circulated widely in the U.S., the ad community seems unimpressed.
"I think [the handbook] is more of the kind of lecturing authoritarian nonsense that will put people off, particularly young adults, and I think that's a shame particularly these days when they need to be careful," said Martin Macdonald, managing partner-executive creative director at WestWayne, Atlanta. "How many more teen-age mothers and how much more does the incidence of AIDS have to rise before the boys in the Vatican, and they are all boys, wake up?"
CROSSING THE LINE
Pope John Paul II is "taking the rules that have governed man and applying them to advertising . . . I think he's crossing over the line a little bit," said Laurence Boschetto, partner and exec VP-director of account services at Adler Boschetto Peebles & Partners, New York, who was a Christian Brother and has an undergraduate degree in theology. "I have one question for the church: If we don't abide by these laws that they put out, are we in the ad community doomed forever?"
John Nieman, vice chairman-chief creative officer at D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, said: "Any religious group has a right to communicate their views, but I don't think you can stop the free flow of information."
One adman, Kevin O'Neill, president-chief creative officer of Warwick Baker O'Neill, isn't taking it too seriously.
"As a graduate of Holy Innocents Grammar School in Brooklyn," he said, "I should've guessed that one day I'd be showing my storyboards to the pope."
Contributing: Laura Petrecca.
Copyright April 1997, Crain Communications Inc.