Sainsbury’s Christmas ad

28th November 2014

The Clear View – Sainsbury’s Christmas ad


Christmas ads are now hotly anticipated.  In recent years, particular retailers’ campaigns have been  trailed with significant amounts of publicity in advance of their first broadcasts and attract large audiences when  they get to air.


The Sainsbury’s Christmas ad, which this year focused on the well-reported 1914 Christmas day truce and football match between British and German soldiers in no-man’s land has attracted a lot of attention  and resulted in over 700 complaints to the ASA.  The complaints related mainly to offence caused through the use of a First World War event to advertise a commercial company.


At Clearcast, Christmas arrives very early with plans for Christmas advertising often being discussed in summertime or before. We started discussions with Sainsbury’s on this ad in April of this year, well in advance of filming.


We recognised that the subject matter could heighten viewers’ sensitivities about the First World War and were aware of the likelihood of some viewers finding the use of the War for commercial purposes offensive, particularly in the year of the Centenary.  We discussed these matters in detail with the agency, specifically asking for confirmation of the support the proposed approach had from the Royal British Legion and discussing the need for a reference to this support to be included in the ad.


We also had detailed internal discussions, considering the rationale behind the campaign and the Royal British Legion support for it.  We thought the issue was handled sensitively and that care was taken to ensure historical accuracy.  On balance, we decided the ad was not likely to breach the broadcast advertising rules (BCAP Code) by causing serious or widespread offence.


The ASA has now considered the complaints it received about the ad and has confirmed that it will not formally investigate them.  The ASA, in line with Clearcast’s view of the ad, considers the ad did not breach the Code and was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.  That’s a great early Christmas present for Sainsbury’s and for Clearcast.


Niamh McGuinness, Head of Copy Clearance at Clearcast