We all know the way it goes by now: every year, a bunch of different retailers put a lot of money into their Christmas adverts, with John Lewis’s recent efforts usually “winning” in terms of tears shed and/or influence on sales. Except Sainsbury’s clearly wanted in, and its 2014 ad has somewhat raised the bar. John Lewis’ penguin ad looks pretty unambitious by comparison.
The setting is the Western Front, Christmas 1914, and the fabled Christmas Truce, where troops from both sides of the war spontaneously agreed a cautious, unofficial ceasefire. Soldiers came out of their trenches, greeted each other, exchanged small gifts (like stamps or sweets) and – some believe – even played a game of football. It’s beautifully shot, and for many it’s a sincere and emotional bit of film.
Of course, using the memories of those who died in the Great War to sell stuff is more than a bit inappropriate, so Sainsbury’s has emphasised that: a) all profits from the sale of each tie-in chocolate bar (50p per bar) will be going to the Royal British Legion, and b) it sees this as a kind of celebration of moments of kindness during hardship during conflict. It’s based on the diaries of both British and German soldiers, for example, as the making-of video explains. Does that do enough, though?