Sainsbury’s Christmas ad could face investigation after hundreds of complaints

Sainsbury’s World War 1-themed Christmas ad could face an investigation after 135 people complained about the campaign to the ad watchdog.

The ad tells the story of the famous Christmas Day 2014 truce between British and German soldiers during the First World War. It shows a British soldier, Jim, leaving his trench to greet the enemy, in particular a German soldier called Otto. Others follow suit and exchange greetings, treats and play a game of football.

However, people have complained that the ad is “offensive” because it uses World War I imagery to promote a company and that it isn’t clear from the outset that it is an advert.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says it has not yet launched an investigation but it will carefully assess the complaints to establish whether there are grounds for further action.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Sainsbury’s head of brand Mark Given defended the ad. He said overall reaction to the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive and that the company has been humbled by the reaction to it.

He added that the ad aimed to tell the story of an important moment in history “sensitively, respectfully and accurately” and that it had worked very closely with the Royal British Legion to ensure it got the tone right. Sainsbury’s based the ad on original letters and reports, as well as working with historians throughout the development and production process to ensure it was historically accurate.

Retailers managed to avoid complaints about their Christmas ads last year. That follows 2012, when Asda, Morrisons and Boots all received complaints about their Christmas campaigns, although none of the ads were ever banned by the ASA.

UPDATE

The Advertising Standards Authority has now received 240 complaints about the ad.

Sainsbury’s says it is selling 5,000 of the chocolate bars that appear in the ad an hour. They retail for £1, with 50p of every purchase going to the Royal British Legion including all Sainsbury’s profits and a donation from the supermarket.

Hide Comments3 Show Comments
Comments
  • Timm 14 Nov 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Blimey. Surely these offended people, while watching commercial tv, will recognise an ad break. If they do, presumably they will realise that something they watch during the ad break is, er, an ad? Or are they so brain dead that they need advance warning that what they are about to see is an ad?

    It’s a darned good ad too, in my book.

  • Harper Retail Consulting 16 Nov 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Its amazing that 240 complaints vs tens of thousands of appreciative comments ( check out the likes and dislikes totals on Youtube where the advert features) should have to be even considered!
    In my view this piece of film is sensitive, respectful, touching and captures well elements of that terrible and difficult time. Well deserved additional funding to the British Legion to look after those people who have looked after us is a great outcome as well. Thank you Sainsburys, for an inspired and respectful piece of work that I am sure bought a tear to many eyes and enabled all of us to think how lucky we are….

  • Chris Arnold 20 Nov 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I asked a board of school governors last night about this ad as a cross section of the population. 10/15 liked the ad (though most thought it was more a film) but 13/15 thought Sainsbury’s was exploiting the Great War and it was wrong for them to do so, especially at Xmas. 2 said they were highly offended by it and had stopped shopping there. Only 1 thought it was ok and people shouldn’t be so touchy. No one thought it would encourage them to shop there. With a £260 loss, Sainsbury’s ad may get people talking but not walking through the doors.

  • Post a comment

Latest from Marketing Week

NOT REGISTERED? IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email subscriptions@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here