This advert is based on a famous story from the time of the First World War. On Christmas Day 1914, British and German troops held a truce and met in No Man’s Land to play football, exchange gifts and take photographs. What makes the advert even more heart-breaking was that this famous story is largely true (in some areas they did hold a truce, others not).
Extreme caution must be exercised when using tragic events in any promotional material. If executed badly, it can be seen as being in very bad taste and can be bad publicity for the company. Several brands have fallen foul of this, one of the most famous being Cheerios’ marketing faux pas, which was seen by many to be capitalising on Prince’s death too soon after the event, and angered Prince’s fans.
Using tragic events in promotion is risky, how did they nail it?
Sainsbury’s did it right by keeping it realistic, empathetic and not too commercial. There’s no branding, apart from the logo at the end, and none of Sainsbury’s products on show.
The aforementioned Cheerios faux pas was heavily criticised for failing to show any empathy, but Sainsbury’s kept its retelling of this famous event in history as realistic as possible and successfully captured the atmosphere of terror and sadness on the battleground and how the soldiers must have felt.
There is some incredible acting in this advert: the fear on the soldiers’ faces is obvious, and the moment when they break the truce, you can really see the regret. It does much to remind us of how terrible war is.