Benedict Bobblehead on Metro? Not So Fast

From our Metro System reporter, Lena Sun:

It seemed like a great marketing campaign to some at Metro: a Pope Benedict XVI bobblehead riding the train. That is, until church officials saw it.

Metro earlier today yanked a YouTube video it had made featuring a Pope bobblehead taking Metro, after the Archdiocese of Washington complained the figure was unauthorized merchandise and improperly dressed. The ad campaign was meant to encourage people to take Metro to the special papal Mass next week at Nationals ballpark, Metro officials said.

The video is down, but here's a screen shot.

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

The bobblehead portrayed in the Metro video was wearing 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.

"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 showed a 7 3/4 inch bobblehead of Pope Benedict XVI riding a Green Line train, buying a special one-day pass, and demonstrating proper Metro etiquette, like standing on the right going up an escalator.

Lisa Farbstein, Metro's media relations director, came up with the idea; she bought the bobblehead on eBay ($16.99 including shipping) a few weeks ago.

"We did not intend to offend," said Farbstein, who also came up with the idea for the in-house ad showing Peeps riding Metro to the new Nationals 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 offered to do it voluntarily, Farbstein said.

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

By Michelle Boorstein |  April 8, 2008; 6:55 PM ET
Previous: Popemobile Routes Detailed | Next: Clergy Sex-Abuse Victims Speak Out


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I can understand a few of the factual errors here, but I would have loved to have seen this video. (I am Catholic myself.) Kudos to Ms. Farbstein for having a little fun, thinking outside the box and going for a little viral marketing.

Posted by: Joe in SS | April 8, 2008 9:21 PM

I'll bet they would have let the Metro keep their campaign if they cut the church a big enough check (maybe a papal surcharge on all Metro riders).

Some riders might complain. But, as Jesus once said, "there's a sucker born every minute." (It was one of the Apochryphal Gospels, I think.).

Posted by: Cletus | April 8, 2008 9:49 PM

Lol... I got to see it and it was indeed a funny video. But the Bobble-head Pope looks more like Pope John Paul II rather than Pope Benedict.... or maybe it was just me?

Posted by: ANx | April 9, 2008 8:20 AM

Posted by: Yay for Youtube | April 9, 2008 9:56 AM

I try not to be nasty online, but putting "Not So Fast" in a headline is about as clever as "a perfect storm." Please, stop all this not-so-fasting soon.

Posted by: Jordan Cook | April 13, 2008 10:24 AM

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