Irish gambling site Paddy Power launched a “drive-thru confessional” to spark conversation about the Pope’s upcoming visit. The tongue in cheek marketing activation pokes fun at the idea of “Catholic guilt” by offering residents a way to gain forgiveness on the go.
A 42-foot (13 meters) wide by 39-foot (12 meters) tall structure was strategically placed over a car wash next to Phoenix Park, where up to half a million people are expected to gather this weekend. The drive-thru confession box is made to look like the real thing, only much larger—“big enough to withstand the full spectrum of sin,” the company said.
“It was a bit of fun, but we also wanted to start a very real conversation about the subject in light of the Pope’s visit,” Rachael Kane, head of Irish PR at Paddy Power told AList.
Paddy Power says it commissioned a study about the decline of Catholicism in the area. Almost 80 percent of survey respondents said they did not go to confession at least once a month and 29 percent couldn’t remember the last time they went. (Details of the survey, including methodology were not cited.)
At the activation, guests can drive through massive red curtains, where they are greeted by a “priest.” With a wave of his hand, the “priest” absolves participants of their sins and they can be on their way.
“We have to confess that he may not necessarily [have] had the full qualifications for the job,” admitted Kane.
Outside, a branded sign encourages visitors to “Repent decades of sins in seconds” and “Filthy souls enter here.” Aside from Paddy Power’s name, there is no designated hashtag for the activation. A video was posted on YouTube that shows different Irish citizens being called to mass by a church bell in the distance.
While the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not specifically prohibit gambling itself, the act can lead to other prohibited sins like greed and jealousy—so it’s no wonder a gambling site wouldn’t be a fan of religion. They’re not alone, either, which is part of the reason Pope Francis is paying Ireland a visit. Catholicism has been on a steep decline in the country due to outside influence and revelations of abuse within the church.
“If the Catholic hierarchy have anything they’d like to get off their chests too, they are more than welcome to take a spin through our mega drive-thru confession box while they’re here,” Paddy Power added in a blog post.
Paddy Power has gained a reputation for controversial advertising, riding popular issues like politics, sports and religion. When then-presidential candidate Donald Trump visited Scotland in 2016, for example, the gambling site greeted him with a Mexican mariachi band. Ahead of the big Euro 2012 soccer game, a 108-foot statue of England manager Roy Hodgson was erected to provide “divine intervention.”