A scene from 'Christmas is for Sharing' (Photo: Sainsbury's)

UK supermarket's Christmas truce advert kicks off debate

Posted on centenarynews.com on 17 November 2014
Share |

The UK supermarket chain, Sainsbury's, has drawn both criticism and praise for launching a TV advertising campaign featuring the First World War Christmas truce.

Describing it as 'poignant,' Sainsbury's says the ad. is a 'creative interpretation' of Christmas Day 1914 when British and German soldiers laid down their arms and emerged from the trenches to exchange greetings, mementoes and play an impromptu game of football.

A chocolate bar, shown as a hidden gift to a German soldier, is being sold by the store in the run-up to Christmas to raise money for the Royal British Legion, the services' charity founded to help those returning from the First World War. 

Comments in the UK press and on social media have ranged from 'tastefully done,' powerful' and 'worthwhile' to 'cynical, 'disrespectful' and 'self-interested.'

Britain's advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority, has received 240 complaints.

Called Christmas is for Sharing, the commercial has had almost eight million views on You Tube since the first screening on prime-time television on November 12th 2014. Made in partnership with the Royal British Legion, it will run until Christmas. 

'Cherished'

Mark Given, Head of Brand Communications, Sainsbury’s, said: "Christmas is a special time of year when people come together to share simple moments and kindnesses. This year, we wanted to reflect that theme of sharing in our Christmas campaign through the lens of one of the most extraordinary moments of sharing in modern history. 

"The Christmas truce is an emotive and cherished story in our history that is especially poignant in this First World War centenary year. That’s why we have worked together closely with the Legion to ensure we bring this moment to life with authenticity and respect."

After venturing into no man’s land, the film shows a young British soldier sharing a moment of friendship with a young German counterpart. As the truce ends and they return to their trenches, the German soldier is moved to discover that his British friend has hidden the gift of a chocolate bar in his pocket.

Sainsbury's says the portrayal of the truce was based on original reports and letters to make it as accurate as possible. Historians were also involved in the development and production process, according to the supermarket.

'Disrepectful'

But an article in The Guardian critcises the advert as 'dangerous and disrespectful,' saying the producers have made the First World War beautiful with 'breathtaking cinematography.' 

However The Independent newspaper says the ad. is "to be applauded for telling the story of the honour and heroism of British soldiers – and of Germans, too."

The Advertising Standards Authority says it hasn't launched an investigation but a spokesman added that it would "carefully assess complaints to establish whether there are grounds for further action.

"The general nature of the complaints are that the ad is offensive because it uses WWI imagery to promote a company and that it wasn't clear from the outset that it was an advert."

All profits from the sales of the £1 Belgian chocolate bar, manufactured in Ypres, will be donated to The Royal British Legion for its work to help veterans of the armed forces and their families.

The Legion's Director of Fundraising, Charles Byrne, said: "We’re very proud of our 20 year partnership with Sainsbury’s and this campaign is particularly important.

"100 years on from the 1914 Christmas truce, the campaign remembers the fallen, while helping to raise vital funds to support the future of the living."

To watch the advertisement, and discover more about how it was made, click here

Source: Sainsbury's press release/Advertising Standards Authority

Images courtesy of Sainsbury's

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News