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.
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.