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Pope Bobblehead Ad Given the Bounce

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It seemed like a great marketing campaign: a Pope Benedict XVI bobblehead riding Metro. The Church was not amused. It was the clothes.

"Our concern is that this was a bad bobblehead," said Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington. "You had unauthorized merchandise, and you had a misdressed pope."

The bobblehead in the Metro video wears a red skull cap, known as a zucchetto, and a red cape. "Popes don't wear red skull caps," and they don't wear red capes, only white ones, Gibbs said.

Metro yanked the YouTube video yesterday after the archdiocese complained. The video was meant to encourage people to take Metro to the papal Mass next week at Nationals Park, Metro officials said.

"We think there's a better way to encourage people to take Metro," Gibbs said. "This is the Holy Father, and I think a lot of people would not be comfortable with a bobblehead ad."

The video shows a 7 3/4 -inch-tall bobblehead of the pope riding a Green Line train, buying a special one-day pass and demonstrating proper Metro etiquette, such as standing on the right while riding an escalator. Lisa Farbstein, Metro's media relations director, came up with the idea. She bought the bobblehead on eBay ($16.99, including shipping).

"We did not intend to offend," said Farbstein, who also came up with the idea for the ad showing Peeps riding Metro to the ballpark before Opening Day. "We were really trying to encourage people to purchase the one-day pass and to reach out to new audiences who don't tend to use other, more conventional means to get their news and information."

The archdiocese did not ask for the video to be pulled; Metro did so voluntarily, she said.

In the video, the bobblehead rides the train next to a man reading "Car and Pontiff" magazine. The mock-up of the magazine, also done by Metro media relations, has photos of the popemobile. The man turns to the bobblehead and asks in Latin, "Car in shop?" Then he flips to the last page, which shows an ad about taking Metro to the Mass. "Thank Heaven for Metro," the man intones.

Farbstein said the staff pulled the Latin translation from an Internet service. "We're not 100 percent certain that it is grammatically correct, but this was all part of our tongue-in-cheek attempt at humor," she said.

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