An ad for CRM giant Salesforce, which featured a woman overcoming her noisy working from home environment by levitating off to peaceful woodland setting, has been cleared by the ad watchdog despite spiritualists’ claims it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The video on demand ad, seen on All4 in May, began with a voiceover, stating, “And now, a mini meditation”. As the woman battled to work from home, the voiceover continued, “Inhale serenity, exhale whatever’s happening here. Now bring your focus back to your customer, Tom”.
The woman was then shown starting to levitate off her chair, in the lotus position, saying the name “Tom” in an extended fashion, with a long “Om” sound. The still-levitating woman then floated into the wood to carry on communicating with her customer online.
But three complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority claimed the ad mimicked a spiritual practice, in particular through the use of the elongated “Om” sound within the name Tom, and challenged whether it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
In response to the ASA inquiry, Salesforce insisted the ad was intended to be a humorous, non-religious portrayal of yoga and meditation, and was not intended to depict any specific religious group. The firm said it did not believe the ad would cause serious or widespread offence to viewers in general, or viewers of a particular faith.
In relation to the use of the elongated “Om” sound, Salesforce said that its research and understanding of the word indicated that it had been widely adopted as the unofficial symbol of yoga, and was increasingly associated with yoga, meditation and the wellbeing movement, ad as such was a common practice in non-religious yoga lessons.
Salesforce said that it do not view the use of “Om” in its ad as depicting a sacred symbol or tenet of any faith, but rather as an aid to meditation, which it considered to be part of everyday usage of the word and it was not mocking or derogatory.
Channel 4 said the ad had been approved by Clearcast, with no additional scheduling restrictions.
In its ruling, the ASA noted the spot was set in the context of a busy home-working environment, and considered viewers would understand that the character was attempting to relieve her stress and combat distraction by using techniques widely associated with yoga and meditation.
While acknowledging concerns that some people might have objected to the depiction of meditation and the use of the “Om” sound, it considered viewers would be likely to interpret the ad as being a humorous representation of meditation practices which were widely associated with non-religious wellness or mindfulness techniques.
In that context, it considered viewers were unlikely to find the use of the elongated “Om” sound in the name “Tom” to mimic or mock a specific spiritual practice, and it considered that the ad was unlikely to be seen as being derogatory to any specific religion.
Concluding that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, and did not breach the advertising code, the watchdog cleared the ad for future broadcast.
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