War, Christmas, and Supermarkets


As you will no doubt remember, we observed 2 minutes of silence on the 11th of November to commemorate the end of the First World War. It is a time to reflect on the sheer loss of human life, and the sacrifices men made to fight for a friend of a friend of a friend, for a friend. I could go on about the stupidity of the Great War, but that is not what this is about. This is what this is about:

Sainsbury’s and the Royal British Legion have teamed up to produce this Christmas advert to sell…Mince Pies or something like that. They use one of the most notable events to happen in the Great War; that being the ‘Christmas Truce’ for a Supermarket advertisement. Before I get on to the controversial aspect of the advert, I would like to praise it for being well shot, and managing to tell a story in a limited time span. While I will get on to why I disagree with this advert, it is probably the best Advert I’ve seen all year. In that, it doesn’t just show off the product. You don’t even know it’s Sainsbury’s until the very end.

Now, I will go onto the controversial aspect. The Advert is using a Historical event to sell their brand. Not their products; heck do you know what they ate in the Trench, but their brand. This isn’t entirely bad, but c’mon. You’re phoning in a message of ‘Sharing is Caring’ in the context of a Christmas Truce. Christmas has a message of ‘Goodwill to All Men’.

Many commenters on the YouTube video that Sainsbury’s posted also had a negative opinion on this advertisement.

‘Pretty disgusted that Sainsbury’s would use the Christmas truce to sell their brand. Trench warfare was vile. Full of disease and suffering, not just a little bit cold as this video depicts. The Christmas Truce may be a heartwarming story, but it took place during one of the darkest moments of the last hundred years, and should never be used to sell any kind of product. It’s a disservice to the men who fought and died before and after the short truce.’ -The Dead Man.

‘I was dismayed to see this advert, as I didn’t think that even a supermarket would stoop to such lows.  Sainsbury has nothing to do with WW1.  They are shamelessly using the fact that the Great War is in people’s thoughts at the moment to advertise their own, prematurely early Christmas campaign.  Millions of people didn’t die in the trenches to give Sainsbury an excuse to convince customers to begin their Christmas shop early.  Using the centenary of the Great War to drum up business is profiteering off the backs of the war dead and in my eyes makes Sainsbury no better than the arms industry.’ -Rory Hulse

As well as these, there were lots of comments defending and praising the advert.

‘this is such an incredible advert as it is bring together Christmas and a major event that is being marked this year this advert had me in teas because of the way it has shown the Christmas truce in such an interesting way, the fact that they have took care to make the advert historically correct with the trenches and clothing really shows the amount of care taken with this advert and I give massive pros to Sainsburys for creating such a lovely ad that really hits home and makes you thankful for the many people who fought in the war and how the outcome has affected our lives for the better.’ -Katie Eaton

‘It was timely & very poignant.  The fact that profits from the chocolate bar go to the Royal British Legion and that is was made in partnership with them, makes the connection genuine.  It is recognition of 100 years passing since WW1, that Christmas is a time to come together, and reminds us to celebrate the freedom so many gave their lives for us to enjoy.’ -Adam Seddon

So. What are my thoughts? Well, I’m kind of on the fence. I normally would be on one side of the argument, and share that opinion, but I have a lot I like, and a lot I dislike. I’ve made it clear that using the war to market a chocolate bar and a brand as well is frankly offensive. But, the money goes to a charity, The Royal British Legion (Well, supposedly), and the message it sells is a good one.

With a heavy heart, I must say I agree with the negative side, for my own reason. While I agree with both parties, I must pick that side. Sainsbury’s marketed the sharing side of the truce. But I view it differently. I view the Christmas truce in a different way. I see it as a reminder of Humanity. While plenty of sharing did happen, I can’t disagree with you there. I see the truce as a Triumph of Human Spirit, Overcoming the orders of the Donkeys, and all the Propaganda. Christmas is about, above all, Goodwill to all Men. ALL MEN. Regardless of nationality, ethnicity, class, gender, or belief. That is what the truce is about. They’re all humans, united by the spirit of Christmas.

For Sainsbury’s to do this advert seems illogical and wrong. It is selling it’s brand, no other way I can see it. I just see it that way. It will no doubt be a classic in years to come, and I respect them for portraying this event so well. But I cannot get over the fact they’re using war to sell their brand. That’s just what I think.

About the author


Since 2012, Benjamin Attwood has written for the If you Ask Ben blog.

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