Amazon is launching a TV ad in which an imam and a vicar exchange gifts, before the Black Friday shopping bonanza during which consumers will spend billions with the internet retailer.
The company, which is launching the campaign in the US, UK and Germany, said it was aware of the sensitivities of portraying an inter-faith friendship between religious community leaders.
“We think it is an authentic and charming story,” said Simon Morris, director of advertising at Amazon. “We think it is a legitimate story. We are conscious that some people may be sensitive to it. It is about selflessness and thinking of other people.”
Amazon is launching the ad – which will first be shown in the UK during Coronation Street on Wednesday night – against the backdrop of the British vote to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.
There have been reports since Trump’s win of an increase in reports of hate crimes in the US aimed at Muslims, Latinos and African Americans. In the UK, the outgoing prime minister David Cameron condemned “despicable” incidents of xenophobic abuse shortly after the Brexit vote in June.
Morris said the online retail giant had “sought counsel” from the Church of England, the Muslim Council of Great Britain and the Christian Muslim Forum after taking the decision in July to make the TV ad campaign.
“We wanted to get the story right because we were aware it might seem a sensitive subject to some people,” said Morris. “We have gone to great lengths. It has taken us months to develop it. We wanted to do it well and be respectful to the religions who are featured in it.”
The campaign, developed by London ad agency Joint, features the vicar and imam buying each other knee pads after their religious duties give them sore knees.
Amazon used a real vicar, from Paddington Green church in west London, while the imam is the principal of the Muslim School Oadby in Leicester.
Morris said Trump’s campaign, in which the president-elect talked of banning Muslims from the US, did not cause the company to reassess its campaign.
“I’ve shown it at development and finished stage to all of our leadership who are all supportive,” he said. “Because of the level of detail that has gone into the preparation and research and number of people we’ve shown it to, we think it is the right thing to do.”
When asked the reaction of Amazon’s chief executive and founder, Jeff Bezos, who tweeted his congratulations to Trump, saying he would give him “my most open mind”, Morris said that “he loved it”.
“We were pleased to offer advice to Amazon as they created this advertisement,” said a spokesman for the Church of England. “Fostering interfaith dialogue and community cohesion is a daily part of our work. In many parts of the country the Church of England is the guarantor and convenor of much interfaith dialogue, and this advert reflects that reality.”
(Source: The Guardian)