Thursday, 13 November 2014
I do not have time to write a great deal today but I found that I could not let the day pass without commenting on the Sainsbury Christmas 1914 ad. It "premiered" last night (why have we now become Americans with "premiers" and "finales" on our televisions??) and the internet has been awash today with debate on the supermarket's use of the First World War "Christmas Truce", comparisons to the John Lewis Monty Penguin ad, etc etc.
When I googled the truce in order to find the above picture, it seemed pretty clear that most of the press is united in thinking that the use of this incident is, to say the very least, unsavoury (and outrageous if you are the Daily Mail!). And for once, I must say that I totally agree.
My son showed the ad to me this afternoon - I had not looked at Facebook or Twitter today - and my initial reaction was definitely one of discomfort followed by disgust.
When this ad went out, we were barely twenty four hours from the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. You can just picture some young pushy ad executive sitting in a brainstorming meeting going "oh yes and if we are going with this theme, here's great idea, let's get it out as near as possible to the eleventh. Why not on the eleventh? At eleven?"!
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I have little personal connection to the First World War but those millions of men died for all of our futures. Did Sainsburys think it was doing a good thing? Did they see the public reaction to the Tower of London poppies and rub their hands, knowing what was coming?
The thing is, the ad is a good piece of film making - for all I know about these things! - and the sentiment "Christmas is for sharing" is an excellent one. What sticks in the throat is the use of this incident and that sentiment to sell more Christmas groceries and gifts. Presumably, they thought that hooking up with the Royal British Legion would help to divert some of this discomfort. They thought we would think it was almost a public service ad, not a supermarket wheeze!
Unfortunately you have to enter one of their stores to buy the special chocolate bars which are giving 100%of their profits to the Legion. And while you are there, you may as well get a few other things...
Paul McCartney used the Christmas Truce incident in his "Pipes of Peace" video years ago. At least he had a peace theme and was well known for campaigning against war. Although he was trying to sell records, so you could argue that one both ways.
I feel that I m ranting so I won't go on. A final thought, though, is that it is a worrying indictment of our society when advertisements are becoming events in their own right. Advertisements used to become news stories as people became aware of them. They were not pre announced into our viewing schedules! Their makers hoped that the desired effect would be created and word would spread (eg the Levis guy stripping in the laundrette!).
Whatever happens now though, whether the ad continues to be shown or whether public outrage continues to mount and it is pulled, Sainsbury have achieved more column inches and more search engine mentions than one can imagine. It is wrong to have used such a poignant event to achieve this. And here I am, adding to that publicity. A good place to stop my rant, I think. If, by some miracle, you have not seen the ad, just google or go onto You Tube.....