High budget, sentimental advertising has recently become a Christmas ‘tradition’ and now Sainsbury’s, like John Lewis is tugging at the heart strings in its recent Christmas advert. The subject matter of its beautifully shot advert has given rise to some very different interpretations. The advert is based on a moment in WW1 when German and English soldiers are thought to have called a temporary Christmas truce to the slaughter of the war to leave the trenches to play a game of football in the no man’s land of the battlefield.
Sainsbury’s almost acknowledge that the history behind the event is not wholly certain here.
Whether real or not, Sainsbury’s have recreated this moment to tie in with a promotion of a chocolate bar – packaged in a 1914-style design, proceeds from the sale of the chocolate are being given to The Royal British Legion – a charity that supports ex-servicemen. Whilst some see the advert as being a respectful reminder of the bravery of a generation of men that helps to raise money for a worthy cause, others see it as being exploitative. (Not helped by the supermarket’s plans to bulldoze a war memorial.) The representation of the trenches sanitises the conditions and the advert shows nothing of the death, destruction and suffering experienced by those who were there. The overall aim of the advert is, of course, to promote the supermarket and so the use of WW1 could be seen as tasteless and, even though a charity may benefit from chocolate sales, the main beneficiary of the awareness raising created by the advert is Sainsbury’s.
Zizek has a view on the way modern corporations incorporate the idea of charity into the way they persuade us to buy. Not everyone agrees with this argument of course but Sainsbury’s advert could be seen as part of this ‘cultural capitalism’.