Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
21 December 2017updated 01 Aug 2021 11:11am

Poundland’s aggressive, hyper-sexualised elf ad campaign has ruined Christmas

Objectifying women and insinuating sex acts, the character depicted on the shop’s social media is offending customers.

By Anoosh Chakelian

This piece features screengrabs of “Elf Behaving Badly”.

It wouldn’t be Christmas in the sordid year of 2017 without a gross man ruining it, and so Poundland delivered the goods on its Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Using a plastic elf with a suspiciously innocent expression, the discount store’s questionable publicity campaign objectifies women, and has been putting out generally inappropriate content for a family shop pretty much every day this month.

Here are some of the worst:

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them

Photos: Twitter screenshots

Some didn’t find the elf an entertaining bit of marketing, with Twitter users accusing Poundland of “poor taste”, being “dodgy/crude” and “clickbait arseholes”, “taking sexism to a whole new level”, “losing their minds” and “inciting violence” and depicting “sexual assault” – with one user claiming to have reported the most recent one (involving a teabag) to Twitter and the police:

When asked about the offensiveness of the campaign, Poundland’s marketing director Mark Pym commented:

“The love on Facebook has been overwhelming, and that’s because it connects with our shoppers. We’re proud of a campaign that’s only cost £25.53 and is being touted as the winning marketing campaign this Christmas!”

This gleeful response further suggests that Poundland is deliberately courting controversy for a bit of publicity (yes, I know I’m providing that in this very piece), but this is no reason to ignore it. With a huge chunk of its products being for children, it may regret running such a campaign – particularly when the recent case of Paperchase being shamed by consumers led it to changing its practices.