The Sainsbury’s Christmas advert cashes in on the atrocities of war

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Christmas is the prime time for soppy, feel-good adverts; John Lewis nearly brought about mass hysteria last year, with thousands tearing up at an endearing tale of two woodland creatures hopping around in the snow to Lily Allen’s dulcet tones. Rather than just appealing to our compulsive consumerist natures, festive marketing seems to have become a competition to see who can get us reaching for the tissues first, which, although very weird, seems to have become a tradition of sorts.

Last year's 'Bear and the Hare' advert from John Lewis has sparked a trend for tear-jerking Christmas adverts.
Last year’s ‘Bear and the Hare’ advert from John Lewis has sparked a trend for tear-jerking Christmas adverts.

 The newest addition to this collection of tear-jerking adverts is Sainsbury’s homage to the First World War, depicting the day-long ceasefire on Christmas Day 1914, when British and German soldiers played football. Whilst this is undoubtedly heart-warming, especially with 2014 marking the centenary of World War One, its an odd choice of topic to base a supermarket Christmas advert around. At no point in the advert (apart from a brief shot of some chocolate at the end) is there any product placement, or any display of what Sainsbury’s sells. It seems to just be an excuse to jump on the very odd bandwagon of trying to induce people to tears at this time of year. While this is strange enough, Sainsbury’s have taken it one step further by capitalising on a national tragedy.

 The film alone is a brilliant piece of cinema. Poignant and moving, it displays an incredibly touching glimpse of humanity in the midst of bloody, brutal conflict, highlighting even further that the soldiers who died were people, not just one of an endless number of statistics. It shows an extraordinary emotional depth in just four (albeit uncomfortable) minutes, but at the expense of what? It is hard not to feel that the traumas suffered in the trenches are trivialised in the advert.

Exploiting World War One for petty commercial gain is wrong. Watching such a moving display of human decency in such horrific circumstances soon turns sour when the objective becomes clear: to sell us Christmas crackers and turkey for a day that comes only once a year.

 Millions of soldiers, as well as civilians, died in the First World War. A massacre of such magnitude has never been seen before or since, and even today the horror of such a disaster still reverberates throughout our society. The huge memorial ceremonies during 2014 make it completely obvious that it is something still very much prevalent in our minds, something which still affects us, and something that is no less a tragedy today than it was 100 years ago. This makes it all the more tasteless that a supermarket chain has chosen it as a marketing ploy, simply to join a growing trend.

 Exploiting World War One for petty commercial gain is wrong. Watching such a moving display of human decency in such horrific circumstances soon turns sour when the objective becomes clear: to sell us Christmas crackers and turkey for a day that comes only once a year. Would the millions of people that so tragically lost their lives 100 years ago approve of their deaths being trivialised so that we know where we can get our parsnips this festive season? I doubt it.

 Phillipa Williams

Watch this year’s Sainsbury’s Christmas advert here:

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