The Orange Order has described as bizarre a decision to drop a mineral water advertising campaign with the slogan “Orange and proud” in Scotland and across Ireland.
The high-profile advertising posters by drinks company Volvic will only be displayed in England and Wales over fears they would associate the slogan with the Protestant religious order and offend Catholics.
Advertising experts said the firm made the right decision, but critics claimed it was political correctness gone mad.
Ian Wilson, the former Grand Master of the Orange Lodge in Scotland, said he was “baffled” by the move.
He said: “I feel sorry for the company – they must be confused as to why something as innocent as this should create such a fuss.
“I cannot conceive of any Catholics being in any sense offended by what is an innocent ad campaign.
It is a wrong decision and a silly decision. Are supermarkets in South Armagh going to stop stocking oranges?Nelson McCausland
“I don’t think ‘The future’s bright, the future’s Orange’ did a certain mobile phone company any harm.”
Volvic is owned by the French multinational food company Danone.
The posters, featuring a smiling model with ginger hair holding the bottle, will appear on advertising boards in England and Wales.
They will not be displayed in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland or Scotland – although the product will be sold in shops everywhere.
A Danone statement said: “We are aware of the sensitivities, which is why these posters will not appear in Ireland, Northern Ireland or Scotland. This campaign was designed as a fun and positive brand statement for Volvic as part of our marketing campaign.”
A Grand Lodge of Ireland Orange Order spokesman said: “The institution would challenge Danone to publicly explain the rationale of their advertising disparity within the UK, particularly given the fact Orange lodges also exist in England. Such a position is ridiculous and inconsistent.”
Democratic Unionist Stormont politician and prominent Orange Order member Nelson McCausland claimed the firm’s position was nonsensical.
He said: “It is a wrong decision and a silly decision.
“Are supermarkets in South Armagh going to stop stocking oranges?”
Ian Twinn, director of public affairs at the ISBA, which represents British advertisers, said the advertising agency should have tested the campaign on the market to make sure it worked.
“I think they have probably made the right decision given that they have gone for that creative idea and that was going to be the advert and then thought oops, it won’t work in Ireland, north or south, or Scotland – they really could not win. There are sensitivities here either way.”