Sainsbury’s may be winning the battle of the festive ads in terms of emotional pull, but its WW1-themed spot has been hit by a barrage of complaints – 240 by Friday and counting – from people who claim it is morally repugnant.
The ad, devised by AMV.BBDO, depicts the WW1 Christmas truce in the trenches when German and British soldiers exchanged gifts and played football.
Supported by the British Legion, it ends with the German soldier discovering he has been given a chocolate bar, while the British Tommy finds he has been given a German biscuit. Sainsbury’s is selling a version of the chocolate bar, with part of the proceeds going to the Poppy Appeal.
It has already totted up nearly 9 million views on YouTube, but has created a major split in public opinion.
MP Ben Bradshaw tweeted: “I’d never normally tweet a link to an ad, but if you haven’t seen Sainsbury’s Christmas one yet, it’s just marvellous.”
Meanwhile adman Steve Henry – co-founder of HHCL – has been quoted as saying: “I think the sentiment is fantastic – and taps into something very contemporary. For me, it’s definitely a piece of work to be applauded.”
However, the YouTube comments section is peppered with remarks such as “gross, awful exploitative advertising”, “tasteless wankers” and “you suck” from people objecting to the supermarket using WW1 to sell its products.
An ASA spokesman confirmed the complaints team are assessing whether or not there are grounds for further action. He added: “Once that decision has been made we’ll confirm our next steps (whether we investigate or close the case) and confirm the total number of complaints received.”
The row has intensified following claims that Sainsbury’s is also trying to demolish the Memorial Stadium in Bristol, currently home to Bristol Rovers FC, which was built as a tribute to 300 Bristol rugby players who died in the 1914-18 conflict.
“While the nation watches the emotion-packed advert, the days are numbered for Bristol’s largest war memorial,” Diana Scrafton, organiser of opposing group TRASHorfield, told The Sunday Times.
Sainsbury’s has denied it will demolish the memorial, with a spokesman saying: “We recognise that the site has historical importance, which is why our plans preserve the memorial stone and create a public square dedicated to the memory of former Bristol rugby players.”
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