Sainsbury's launched its Christmas advert this week to much debate. For some it showed a courageous moment in history when human nature won out over the brutality of battle, for others it was the epitome of capitalism and ‘glorified war’. As the debate about the TV advert stirred on social media, it also showed the integrated digital world we live in. More than ever before opinions are made and aired on social networks such as Twitter, giving companies great insight into public opinion and the image they have created.
A company which celebrates special moments in our collective history or one which disrespects millions in the trenches to ‘flog more groceries’?
In my eyes, the advert is brilliant. It’s interesting, it stimulates debate and it’s honest. It might not show all the horrors of World War I, but it was never meant to be a documentary. It might not have much moral difference to two Nazi Holocaust victims exchanging gifts in a camp, but it is an iconic story that, though not every soldier’s experience of The Great War, reminds us that there is a degree of human nature that binds us all. As Thomas Hardy so brilliant explained more than a decade before World War I:
"Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown."
So what image has Sainsbury's created? I think it’s one of respect for our ancestors, compassion for human nature and timeliness with the centenary. It could have been badly done, but I don’t think that is the case. Above all, Sainbury's has shown its personality, it has sparked interest and got people talking. The true mark of great promotion.
My Great-Grandad died in the trenches in World War I and I for one am glad that Sainsbury's has had the guts to do something interesting, despite the potential controversy. The best stories can be found in history and I’d much rather an advert stirred emotion because I respect its significance than by kissing penguins.
The best irony of all is the advert alongside this particularly damming article to ‘click to order’ a book about public opinion during World War I. What’s that you said about not ‘exploiting the World War for commercial gain’?
All that’s left now is to see what Gogglebox has to say!