Every year, Sainsbury’s waits until after Armistice Day before kicking off its Christmas marketing campaign. The retailer does this as a mark of respect to those who have fallen in conflict over the years and marks its long-standing relationship with the Royal British Legion.
As such, it is wrong to question Sainsbury’s motives behind its latest epic Christmas advert recreating the famous Christmas day football match between British and German troops during the First World War.
Sure you can question whether it is appropriate to link war and marketing in this way – but there can be no doubt as to the genuine respect Sainsbury’s has for this issue and its support of the Legion.
But as is the case, especially in the internet age, this type of advertising will divide and even polarise opinion – it has done even in our own office.
Perhaps the success of Christmas TV ads in touching the zeitgeist in recent years has led marketing departments to think too big. The John Lewis ‘Present’ ad of a few years ago has proved a catalyst for marketeers to try and outdo themselves and their rivals every year with pressure and expectation growing at every turn.
Last year, Sainsbury’s delivered a masterpiece – by secretly working with acclaimed film director Kevin Macdonald to capture real people’s experiences over the holidays – it created a movie that was at times hilarious, heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal measure. The retailer was then able to slice and dice the clips to create a series of TV ads which accurately summed up so many people’s feelings and experiences of Christmas, which all reflected warmly on Sainsbury’s as a brand.
This year’s ad is also heart-breaking – but it does not have the humour and levity of last year – something we are all looking for more and more, particularly at Christmas and especially given the general tone of the news around the world right now.
My feeling is that Sainsbury’s set the bar too high last year and made its rivals tales of turkey, puddings and crackers seem a little passé – but perhaps this year, with all the misery and suffering in the world, a little old fashioned Christmas stuffing is just what the doctor ordered.
Anyway, this is just my own view and to find out what our panel of marketing experts thought about all of the retailer’s festive offerings, check out this week’s issue of The Grocer.