Reactions to the Sainsbury’s Christmas advert have been bouncing around the social media world for the last day or so. It’s a genuinely moving piece of film (it moved me to tears but then again so do some episodes of Star Trek) and it’s very well made. It’s thoughtful and compassionate, but is it appropriate?
If you haven’t seen it here it is.
One comment I saw asked, what was wrong with Sainsbury’s using World War I to promote their groceries? You might ask, then why didn’t they do that last year, or ten years ago, when there wasn’t a massive wave of public consciousness of the tragedy of war? The comment then went on to say that the film War Horse was making a profit from the war.
To compare this advert to War Horse, the film, the book or the play, is deeply disingenuous. Michael Morpurgo made a profit on the story that enables him to live and continue to tell stories that enrich and enhance our lives, which might well throw light on the experience of war or otherwise bring change to society. Back in 1983, when there wasn’t the same public sentiment to take advantage of, Paul McCartney made his single Pipes of Peace with an accompanying video that is so similar you have to ask where the inspiration came from for this; but was that any different? Sainsbury’s are trying to sell more groceries. The difference in profit motive is subtle but significant. It may turn out that the British Legion, having supported this, may have made a mistake when the final analysis of public opinion is in. Or, perhaps, we all like to have our emotions tugged at and feel better about ourselves no matter who created the art and for what reason. Anyway, is anybody going to change their Christmas groceries habit just because of a fucking penguin?
Is there such a thing as sensitive, creative commercialism, such as that of Michael Morpurgo or Paul MCartney, that makes art out of something that contains sensitive issues? Is there then a secondary commercialisation where the intention is to sell products on the back of the creative endeavour other than selling the creative endeavour itself?
Apparently the chocolate bar featured in the film is on sale and all profits go to charity. Presumably it’s not available from the penguin or the reindeer on any of the other inevitable tosh we are faced with over the next six weeks. I don’t usually shop in Sainsbury’s as they are way over there, across town. However, if I want to make the chocolate bar donation I might stop in especially to get one and not buy any other shopping just to make my point. Oh and don’t get me started on the dodgy wiring on that other supermarket ad.