If 2020 saw the country come together to clap for heroes and lend a hand to those in need, 2021 has seen it more divided than ever – particularly on how to respond to the pandemic. 

That much is illustrated by Tesco’s latest Christmas ad, which sees Santa Claus make his debut in the post-Covid world. We’ll assume that, as Lapland isn’t on the red list, he shouldn’t be delayed by a 10-day quarantine in a government-approved hotel (though his wares might be held up by ongoing chaos in the supply chain). But as Tesco’s ad points out, he will get through customs without a hint of bother due to being fully vaccinated.

The sight of Santa flashing his QR code at border control to the tune of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now has, predictably, caused outrage on Twitter. Certain users are furious that a good old St Nick is being used to advocate “medical apartheid” in an advert that has been likened to “propaganda”. The ad has around 17,000 downvotes on YouTube at the time of writing, compared with 1.6k upvotes. 

The result is a #BoycottTesco hashtag. On the one hand, it could be viewed as a stroke of genius. Plenty of Twitter users voiced their support for the ad, claiming Tesco stores will be safer than their rivals should anti-vaxxers give them a wide berth. On the other hand, the grocers typically don’t want to alienate anyone – even those that have dismantled 5G masts – ahead of the fought-over festive season.


Read more:


Tesco was clearly keen to avoid any political leanings in its reponse to the backlash. “We respect everyone’s views and we know that Christmas is a hugely important time for many of our customers and, after last year’s events, that is truer now than ever,” a spokeswoman said. “We set out to create a campaign which took a light-hearted view on how the nation is feeling and it has been well-received by colleagues and customers.”

Still, it’s not as though being political in ads is always a problem. This year’s Morrisons Christmas ad, for example, highlighted its claim as “British farming’s single biggest customer” by featuring ‘Farmer Christmas’. Its message is clear: support British farmers and shop British where possible.

Meanwhile, Aldi’s Christmas message was one of relieving hunger, supported by children’s hunger champion and England striker Marcus Rashford, who takes on the adorable role of Marcus Radishford in the discounter’s ad.

Steering away from the pandemic has proved safer for both of these propositions, which have been met by largely positive reviews.

But Tesco should avoid worrying too much about its YouTube downvotes. After all, most shoppers are unlikely to direct their trollies to the supermarket that echoes their political sentiments this festive season.

Rather than a big-spend creative – which will have worn quite thin by the time Christmas Day rolls round – shoppers are more likely to be looking at how full the shelves are. Luckily, this is one area where Tesco is supremely confident, with Ken Murphy promising plenty of stock to go around – whether Santa is vaccinated or not.