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APCON to sanction Sterling Bank over Easter advert blunder

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The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) on Monday said it will sanction Sterling Bank over a controversial Easter advert that compared the resurrection of Jesus Christ with ‘Agege Bread’ a kind of locally produced bread.

In a statement on Monday, the advertising industry regulator said the “distasteful” advertisement was not submitted for approval by its panel, noting that the lender would be sanctioned for the advert.

“The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) has observed with displeasure the insensitive and provocative Easter celebration advertisement by Sterling Bank Plc which compared the resurrection of Christ with Agege Bread,” the statement reads.

APCON

“The distasteful advertisement was neither submitted nor approved for exposure by the Advertising Standards Panel (ASP), the statutory Panel charged with the responsibility of ensuring that advertisements conform with the prevailing laws of the federation as well as the code of ethics of Advertising in Nigeria.

“APCON will take necessary actions to ensure that Sterling Bank is sanctioned for the exposure of such offensive advertisement according to law and that no religious belief or faith is ridiculed or any blasphemous advertisement exposed in any guise.”

Sterling Bank had posted an Easter advert on social media platforms and also sent its customers via email in which the lender likened the resurrection of Christ to Agege bread, a king of bread brand popularised by bakers in the Agege area of Lagos.

The message contained a picture of a golden-brown bread divided into two with the caption ‘Like Agege Bread, He Rose!”

The post sparked public outrage from Nigerians across social media, denouncing the audacity of the lenders to compare the most important event of Christain to a mere bread.

Many chided the bank for diminishing the essence of Easter, while some found the post funny.

A Public Relations practitioner, Chido Nwakanma in a Facebook post called for the sack of the lender corporate communication team and all that were responsible for the distasteful advert.

Nwakanma said; “the Management of Sterling Bank should clear its Corporate Comms team on Tuesday. Everyone involved in preparing and placing that obnoxious ad that pokes noxious fingers into the eyes of all Christians in Nigeria should not be involved in communications one day extra.

“Remember that Sterling Bank committed a similar offence in 2018 with its “In shooting for the moon, men become stars” ad. It similarly apologised. Is that the Sterling Bank tradition? Put two feet in the mouth and then say sorry? Not good at all.”

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“Have you seen the obnoxious and insulting ad? A corporate entity such as Sterling Bank signs off on an ad that compares the basis of the Christian faith to Agege Bread. It is the height of idiocy! It is an offensive joke.

Responding to the backlash, Sterling bank pulled down the post, replacing it with another post in which it apologised to its customers.

Quoting the Bible verse, John 8:7, the new post reads, “…let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone”.

“Forgive us in the spirit of Easter,” the bank added.

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. We humbly celebrate His resurrection, the defeat of death and the hope of salvation.”

In a follow-up response to the advert, the chief executive of Sterling Bank, Abubakar Suleiman tendered an unreserved apology to the nation’s Christian community for the Easter message and described the content of the infographic and the message it contained as insensitive and failed to consider the very sober nature of the event being commemorated, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“While the message had no malicious intent, there is no place for content that fails to fully account for the feelings of billions of people all over the world.

“Our honest intent was to join our millions of customers in Nigeria and worldwide in celebrating this solemn event, but our execution fell short on this occasion.

“As a responsible institution, we immediately withdrew the offensive material and initiated a review of the circumstances that led to this failure,” Suleiman said in a letter to its customers.

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