A pizza company has upset people over an advertising campaign that compares its limited-edition hot cross buns to Jesus.

Hell Pizza has put billboards around Auckland's CBD that advertise its hot cross buns with the tagline: "For a limited time. A bit like Jesus."

Anglican Church media officer Lloyd Ashton said the campaign was disrespectful to many religions and the people who followed them.

"They [the billboards] join a long line of advertising that's in questionable taste that slings off [at] things that lots of people hold precious.

"It's disrespectful to what a lot of people hold very dear."

Mr Ashton said he was tired of advertising agencies using blasphemy and religious controversy to sell products.

"Their buns are stale.

"The ad is another example of already over-remunerated ad people getting paid more to churn out 'risque' ads.

"They've dared here to take a clumsy poke at something that numbers of people hold sacred."

Hell Pizza director Warren Powell said:
"We expected it would spark some debate and some talking between people in the offices.

"Which is good. It means our marketing budget works a little bit harder.
I do not see how it could possibly be disrespectful to anyone's religion.

"First of all, we're acknowledging that Jesus Christ may have been on Earth for a limited time.

"We may bring them back next year, and everyone's saying that
Jesus Christ is coming back one day.

"Again, it's a debate. I think if people take it that way then they're being a little bit single-minded."

The Advertising Standards Authority has received two complaints about the billboard campaign so far.

Chief executive Hilary Souter says as soon as a complaint is made it is passed on to the board, which decides whether action needs to be taken.

The advertising agency or the company in question is then asked for comment in relation to the complaint which is then taken back to the nine board members, who decide whether it should be upheld.

If it is decided that the advertisement is offensive, it is removed.

Mrs Souter says the process takes about 25 days.