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The Christmas adverts that failed to spread festive cheer among viewers

Written by Abbie Jukes on Tuesday, 11 December 2018. Posted in Content, Sales & Marketing

Rather than producing profit for companies at the busiest time of the year, these Christmas adverts instead faced public backlash

The Christmas adverts that failed to spread festive cheer among viewers

Scenes of shoppers swarming the high street while dodging in between carol singers in an attempt to bag bargains and participate in the festive spirit of giving to others are familiar sights at this time of year. Just look at the carnage of Black Friday, which usually acts as a starting pistol to seek deals on gifts.

Indeed, many of these shoppers are aware of companies’ latest Christmas adverts at a time of year when the promotions are anticipated as a firm favourite of the upcoming season of good will. When deciding what treats to splash their cash on, ultimately, those marketing campaigns that have touched the heart of the holiday season will have people more likely to reach for their pockets.

However, whilst this may be true for some commercials, this cannot apply to all. Rather, some companies failed in getting people to deck the halls with promotion-inspired gifts entirely to make way for outrage instead. Here, we look at the Christmas adverts that hit the headlines for failing to spread season’s greetings.

(1) Coca-Cola caught in mapping mix-up

Back in 2015, Coca-Cola found itself in hot water for showing Crimea to be part of Russia in a Christmas marketing campaign. Formerly part of Ukraine, Russia controversially decided to remove the peninsula in March 2014, which was met by backlash from western governments. So when the map of Russia featuring Crimea appeared on VKontakte, a Russian social media network, it was met with fury from Ukrainians, who vented their frustration on social media. Reuters reported that Coca-Cola defended itself by stating that it didn't support any political movements. Probably best not to mention politics in Christmas ads – after all, this year’s festive Iceland ad was banned for being deemed too political.

(2) Asda serves up sexism

You may be forgiven for thinking that you've travelled back in time after watching Asda’s 2012 marketing campaign. Featuring the tagline “Behind every great Christmas, there’s mum. And behind mum, there’s Asda”, the ad follows a frenzied mother who seems to do everything – whilst the father fades into the background. Prompting 620 complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for sexism, The Guardian reported that Asda was cleared by the agency. According to Asda, it carried out extensive research, apparently finding out that eight out of ten mums felt that they did the biggest share of work over Christmas. Presumably the supermarket received at least 620 lumps of coal in its stocking that year.

(3) Morrisons’ menu for dogs leaves viewers howling

The all-too familiar feeling when the stress of the holiday season heightens is depicted accurately in Morrisons' 2012 seasonal ad. Featuring scenes of fighting with a turkey in a boxing ring, as well as a woeful Christmas tree, the comedic value of the commercial is high. Not everybody saw the funny side, however. Animal charity Kennel Club wrote to the supermarket giant to assert its concerns over animal welfare, stating the scene where a person feeds Christmas pudding to dogs should be abolished. Albeit blown out of proportion, Morrisons complied with the ASA and commented that it had consulted veterinary advice about the scene. At least you now know what not to ask Santa Claus to gift your dog. While the advert that led to complaints about the dog food has been removed, the full-length video, which drew complaints for encouraging sexism and gender stereotypes, can still be viewed.

(4) Mr. Kipling takes the cake in blasphemous Christmas ad

Although nativity plays are often associated with embarrassing photos and child cuteness, Mr. Kipling’s 2004 advert navigated away from this concept. Starring a woman called Mary giving birth in a graphic scene, it’s only as the camera pulls away that it becomes apparent the birth is part of a play being performed to a horrified audience. Racking up a whopping 797 complaints to Ofcom, the company was accused of blasphemy in the majority of the complaints, forcing it to withdraw the ad. And it’s still not clear what the relevance of the cakes are but we’re sure food would have been the last thing on the audience’s mind. 

About the Author

Abbie Jukes

As an English PhD student in London, Abbie has joined the Elite team as an editorial intern to gain an insight into the industry. Outside of university and the office, she will be found in the gym, reading the latest fiction novel or looking to book yet another holiday. Follow on twitter @AbbieJukes_x for spontaneous ponderings.

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