Sainsbury’s ‘distasteful’ Christmas ad avoids ban despite 727 complaints

Sainsbury’s Christmas ad has avoided a ban from the Advertising Standards Authority despite 727 people complaining about the campaign, with the ad regulator ruling the ad is unlikely to cause serious harm or offence.

Sainsbury's WW1 ad

The ad, created by AMV BBDO, tells the story of the famous Christmas Day 1914 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.

However, the ASA has ruled that while it recognises some people have found the use of the First World War for advertising purposes “distasteful”, the ad is unlikely to cause serious harm or offence and therefore doesn’t break the rules.

The regulator said also the ad is “obviously distinguishable” from editorial content and therefore not likely to mislead.

Sainsbury’s has rigorously defended its Christmas ad, with head of brand Mark Given telling Marketing Week that overall reaction to the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive and that the company has been humbled by the support. The ad has been watched more than 12 million times on YouTube and recently came third in an exclusive poll for Marketing Week on the Christmas ad winners.

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.

It is also using the ad to donate to the charity, with 50p from the sale of the chocolate bar featured in the ad, which costs £1, going to the Royal British Legion. Sainsbury’s said it has had to order more stock since it went on sale to keep up with demand and that if sales continue at this rate they will raised up to £500,00 for the charity.

Hide Comments2 Show Comments
  • Wayne Tassie 27 Nov 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Wow, I did not realise there was going to be a famous Christmas Day 2014 truce.

  • Edward 30 Nov 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Right call from the ASA. If you’re going outside ‘the box’, you’re bound to offend some people. There’s always a couple living in a smaller one… Great ad. Wouldn’t be surprised if it went and bagged some awards

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