The touching Christmas ad that gave rise to hundreds of complaints to the ASA

by Alina Trapova

The Christmas season was the time for big brands to put their creativity into practice and produce outstanding and memorable adverts – great opportunity for trade mark owners to utilise all the functions of their brands. Endless crowds were impatiently waiting at Oxford Street for the launch of the new John Lewis Christmas advert, but there was another one that provoked the total number of 727 complaints at the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The above-mentioned ad can perhaps be better described as a short film, which focuses on World War I and the truce in the name of the Christmas spirit and humanity. The complaints criticised it due to its allegedly ‘offensive’ nature and the fact, it did not make it clear that it was an advertisement.

The ad refers to the war but surely, it is not the first one to do so – both Guiness and Hovis have already based their promo material on war connotations before. As a result, with respect to Sainsbury’s the ASA Council established that “the ad is not likely to break the rules surrounding serious harm or offence.”

As far as the distinguishability of the advert in itself amongst the editorial material is concerned, it was concluded that despite its long duration, the label ‘Advertisement’ and the voice introduction of the advert made sure that the public is not deceived and it was clear that it was promotional material indeed.

Contrary to the natural feelings of sharing and caring about each other, which the ad was aiming to invoke, it landed some 727 complaints at the ASA. However, the ASA’s strategy is to only pursue claims that inflict genuine harm. Therefore, following a decent common sense approach the Council decided not to investigate these any further. Consequently, having seen the Sainsbury’s Christmas ad, what one would do is to call their loved ones instead of dropping an email to the ASA to express how offended they felt.

Alina Trapova
Assistant Editor