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05 October 2012

The thinking behind Godbaby

The thinking behind Godbaby

The ChurchAds group - of which the Evangelical Alliance is a part - explain the thinking behind this year's controversial Christmas poster campaign...

Christmas is a busy time and there will be a huge amount of sales and advertising clutter so we needed to create something that would interrupt people and make them think.

On a superficial level, we are selling a doll that has certain special functions. In keeping with the trend that every Christmas throws up a 'must-have' toy or gadget, Godbaby is what everyone can have for Christmas 2012.

But what about those functions? He cries and he wees – both of these are possible and many dolls already have that capability. But saving the world? How can a toy do that? It's simple: it can't, so we clearly aren't advertising a toy.

If that's the case, what are we advertising? The clue's in the headline. Godbaby. Or, to unpack it, God as a baby. At Christmas, Christians celebrate God arriving on earth in human form as a baby called Jesus of Nazareth. Well, apparently this is new news to a lot of people, particularly kids who have not been brought up in a church environment. Britain is growing ever more secular and as a result, Bible stories are told less often to fewer people.

The single most important role of this poster is to tell people that Christmas is about God and Jesus, not toys, gizmos, gadgets and the other trappings of the consumerist Christmas.

So why package up the divinity of 'God made man' into something that wouldn't look out of place in Toys R Us? We believe that you need to meet people where they are, and where they are at Christmas is in a retail maelstrom. Christmas is a festival of consumerism for non-Christians and Christians alike – we are all caught up in it. So why not use the language of consumerism to describe the Christmas story?

The poster is proving controversial for several reasons. First, the mention of Christ's bodily functions. We believe that Christ was human and his body conformed to the same physical laws as our bodies. If it hadn't, his crucifixion wouldn't have been so terrible.

Second, the baby creeps some people out. Well, that's dolls for you, but also, we don't want people feeling comfortable with the image. Jesus wasn't cute, meek, mild or any of the sanitised attributes given to him by the Victorians – he was confrontational, plain talking and, at times, furious.

Thirdly, he's made of plastic, which some find sacrilegious. We had to make him out of something. A flesh and blood child is not something you can buy at Christmas, even in Harrods. Besides, Jesus has appeared in all manner of formats over the years – few people have a problem with statues of Jesus made from marble or carved from wood.

No poster can convert anyone into a new belief system, but a poster can provoke the thinking that leads to this. Jesus is already on the margins of the modern Christmas retailfest. If our poster means that just some of the conversational buzz at Christmas is about Jesus, our work is done.

For more on Godbaby, look out for the upcoming edition of idea magazine later this month.