Christmas is for Marketing
November 14, 2014 7:21 AM   Subscribe

UK supermarket Sainsbury's is pulling heartstrings with its 2014 Christmas ad "Christmas is for Sharing," which draws from the true story of the 1914 Christmas truce and football match between British and German troops in World War I. Sales of chocolate bars featured in the ad will benefit the Royal British Legion. The ad has garnered some glowing feedback, including positive comparisons to another popular 2014 Christmas ad with a charity tie-in, John Lewis' "Monty the Penguin." But others are less impressed.
posted by naoko (54 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Okay, the Monty the Penguin one is adorable on two completely different levels.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:34 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


My friend saw this for the first time at a vulnerable (v. drunken) moment and lay on the floor weeping dramatically until her flatmate arrived with consolation candy.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:34 AM on November 14, 2014 [11 favorites]


Shame on Sainsbury's for such exploitation. And shame on the Royal British Legion for exploiting the humanity of German soldiers which it refuses to remember.
posted by Thing at 7:34 AM on November 14, 2014 [13 favorites]


Shameful and sickening. And even Paul McCartney's version was directed better 30 years ago.
posted by colie at 7:37 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many people who participated in the Christmas truce ended up actually surviving the war. A few days of peace bookended by years of senseless carnage.

Amsterdam, Friday: The Taegliche Rundschau in a long article, points out the danger which lies in fraternisation between Germans and French, and greetings such as were recently exchanged between the trenches. "War is no sport" the journal says "and we are sorry to say that those who made these overtures or took part in them did not clearly understand the gravity of the situation." These considerations did not escape the attention of the army authorities, and the newspaper states with great satisfaction that an army order issued on December 29th forbids for the future similar fraternisation and any rapprochment with the enemy in the trenches. All acts contrary to this order will be punished as high treason.

The leadership of both sides saw the truth as literally being a crime punishable by death.

That's the world we live in, not the world where foot soldiers are allowed to see their enemies as human beings.

Military training around the world was changed after this event to dehumanize the enemy (and our own soldiers) and prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again.
posted by empath at 7:39 AM on November 14, 2014 [26 favorites]


I can't be having with this. I suppose in a hundred years we'll have a touching commercial about Auschwitz or the Killing Fields so that we'll buy whatever the ruins of humanity are still buying at that point.

The whole thing leans on forgetting the war - I read a great essay (whose name, ironically, I can't remember) which argued that certain kinds of enforced memorialization are really about forgetting*. We "remember" the Christmas truce so that we can forget the complexity of the war. We "remember" via sentimentalization (and yes, even the sentimentalization/fetishization that is found in writing which emphasizes tragic horror) so that we can actually forget, bracket things into a neat story and then never be truly troubled by them again. And once we've memorialized/forgotten the war, it's ripe for commercialization.

The very shame of living in a society which uses that terrible, monstrous, unassimilable piece of history as marketing.



*It has to have been relatively old, because I remember thinking that Franco Moretti's essay about sentimental fiction must have drawn on it, and that came out in the eighties.
posted by Frowner at 7:41 AM on November 14, 2014 [31 favorites]


"A Memory of Christmas, 1914: 'Look at this bloke's buttons, 'Arry. I should reckon 'e 'as a maid to dress 'im."
Bullets & Billets, by Bruce Bairnsfather

(I confess I want to shop in a chocolate bar.)

posted by octobersurprise at 7:43 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I read a great essay (whose name, ironically, I can't remember) which argued that certain kinds of enforced memorialization are really about forgetting*

If anyone remembers the name of or can link to this essay, I'd appreciate it. Sounds like an interesting read.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:44 AM on November 14, 2014


Sickening. Fuck you, Sainsburys, my people didn't die horrifically in the trenches so you could make a few quid for your rich fucking shareholders. Cynical? Beyond belief.
posted by marienbad at 7:49 AM on November 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


The Man He Killed

"Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

"But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

"I shot him dead because —
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That's clear enough; although

"He thought he'd 'list, perhaps,
Off-hand like — just as I —
Was out of work — had sold his traps —
No other reason why.

"Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown."

— Thomas Hardy
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:51 AM on November 14, 2014 [11 favorites]


I read a great essay (whose name, ironically, I can't remember) which argued that certain kinds of enforced memorialization are really about forgetting*

Sanitizing, especially, I think, and making famous events and people palatable for mass consumption. The thing about this event is that, while it's really touching in a vacuum, they went back to killing each other the next day! Making this about man's humanity to man is definitely whitewashing the actual point, that while yeah, it turns out they weren't so different, they were still willing and able to keep killing each other. It's a poignant moment, but it's poignant because it's surrounded by horror, and it shows what people can do. Reducing it to moving seasonal pablum elides this point.

I think this happens with other stuff too, like how we talk about Martin Luther King's Civil Rights struggles but not about his other political beliefs because we've recognized he's a hero so now we need to sanitize his message and just talk about uplifting shit once a year in January. That essay does sound interesting.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:51 AM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Seriously watch the monty the penguin one it is adorable and will make you feel much much better
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:55 AM on November 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Honestly I was feeling a little "HEY PENGUIN, YOU CAN'T JUST BUY A GIRLFRIEND FOR CHRISTMAS, GIRL PENGUINS ARE PEOPLE TOO" until the reveal at the very end, which I guess I should have seen coming.
posted by naoko at 8:00 AM on November 14, 2014 [14 favorites]


(Totes adorable.)
posted by naoko at 8:02 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's like a mind-meld of Lady And The Tramp and Velveteen Rabbit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:02 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it's a beautiful, absurd piece of history, a story about the power and spirit of Christmas, that's powerfully told and effective. Too bad it's to convince people to shop at a supermarket (Sainsbury's donating the profits from the retro-chocolate bar to the British Legion gives them scant cover), but I really don't see it as being all that different from the deluge of other ads that exploit the spirit of Christmas - love, sharing, kinship etc - to sell us crap. This one just goes to 11.
posted by Flashman at 8:04 AM on November 14, 2014


McCartney's version actually contains booze. The Sainsbury's remake might become a cult comedy classic - from the initial shout of 'JENKINS!' I thought we might be in Monty Python territory.
posted by colie at 8:05 AM on November 14, 2014


I really don't see it as being all that different from the deluge of other ads that exploit the spirit of Christmas - love, sharing, kinship etc - to sell us crap.

Bingo.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:05 AM on November 14, 2014


The CG in the Monty ad is really great, especially for a commercial.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:09 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


They spent an astonishing amount of money on it.

Personally, I was more affected by discovering recently how the first world war actually ended thanks to Paul Mason.

(It was strike action. Or mutiny, depending on how you feel about it.)

We could do with more soldiers going on strike, I reckon.
posted by Grangousier at 8:14 AM on November 14, 2014 [12 favorites]


Good thing I'm not wearing eye makeup today, Monty the Penguin ad.
posted by troika at 8:16 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Could it be an intentional reference? This Monty Python WWI sketch begins with 'Jenkins!' as well!
posted by colie at 8:19 AM on November 14, 2014


John Lewis is also getting props from PETA for using a CGI penguin instead of a live one.
posted by naoko at 8:20 AM on November 14, 2014


Frowner, I'm not sure which essay it would have been, but it sounds like some of the essays about lieux de mémoire (link to PDF article about the concept) or in Jay Winter's work. But Winter's book Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning was written in the late nineties. Maybe he'd published essays before then?
posted by winna at 8:21 AM on November 14, 2014


Maybe next year Sainsbury's can run an advert about a soldier being deployed to Gallipoli and dying so quickly that he didn't have time to eat all that chocolate bar at Christmas 1915. Maybe they can price the chocolate bar at £5, so shoppers can then remember whose fault the absurd Gallipoli Campaign was.
posted by Thing at 8:21 AM on November 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


I saw the Prince of Darkness, with his Staff,
Standing bare-headed by the Cenotaph:
Unostentatious and respectful, there
He stood, and offered up the following prayer.
'Make them forget, O Lord, what this Memorial
Means; their discredited ideas revive;
Breed new belief that War is purgatorial
Proof of the pride and power of being alive;
Men's biologic urge to readjust
The Map of Europe, Lord of Hosts, increase;
Lift up their hearts in large destructive lust;
And crown their heads with blind vindictive Peace.'
The Prince of Darkness to the Cenotaph
Bowed. As he walked away I heard him laugh.

- Siegfried Sassoon
posted by aihal at 8:44 AM on November 14, 2014 [16 favorites]


I suppose in a hundred years we'll have a touching commercial about Auschwitz or the Killing Fields so that we'll buy whatever the ruins of humanity are still buying at that point.

Next year - Aleksandr the Meerkat gets sent to the Gulag.
posted by sobarel at 8:46 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I suppose in a hundred years we'll have a touching commercial about Auschwitz or the Killing Fields so that we'll buy whatever the ruins of humanity are still buying at that point.

Fallujah
posted by briank at 8:55 AM on November 14, 2014


Here is an account by one of the leaders of the German soldiers' revolt which ended the war and established the Weimar Republic. It's on marxists.org, but I found the introduction to be pretty reliable and the stuff I've read on there generally to be quite decent. The guy was a sailor in the navy from a working class background and was one of many working class socialists/communists (but actually more of an anarchist in the end) in Germany before the war. He was one of the organizers of the revolt and a writer and activist during Weimar, then was hotly pursued by the Gestapo and narrowly escaped to England, where they didn't trust him either and he had to write under a pen name - like so many of the leftist Europeans who fled the Nazis, he was viewed as dangerous and unwelcome by the authorities.

Anyway, as I was thinking about this I was thinking about how a right-wing working class is produced. I mean, what was basically the 1848 - 1930 view of the working class in the West? That they were a bunch of potentially-communist agitators who had to be kept down lest they make revolution! And now, in the US, non-working class (or deracinated working class/lower-middle class people like me) take it for granted that working class people are in the main conservative and hostile to social change and all good things - basically half the contentious threads on the blue are about Working People Doing It Wrong, whether that is something that isn't really meaningful (like arguing over Olive Garden) or talking about various kinds of racism or homophobia where there is at least some truth to the idea that some working class people in some regions are more right wing.

But the point is, after 1848 and after 1917 (and 1918, holy shit!) the governments all see that they have to create a right wing working class, especially for the army - because arming the fucking proletariat is risky business! People talked about this stuff and think-tanked about it and did all kinds of propaganda and killed and jailed left organizers (like Liebknect and Luxemburg, into the canal with them).

It just occurred to me that although I knew intellectually about the end of WWI and the establishment of Weimar and the "stab in the back", I hadn't really put it all together until right now. And even Jason Lutes's excellent Berlin, City of Smoke, which has a major plot thread where people are memorializing the founding of the Weimar Republic and reminiscing about taking part in the demonstrations, even that which is full of communist characters never talks about the revolt.

That's memory! Memory is the key - Christmas Truce, not sailors' revolt. Christmas Truce, not the corrupt and disgusting chicanery of the ruling class during the war, not the shameful treatment of enlisted men and NCOs, not the way dissenters were jailed. Memory is political work.
posted by Frowner at 8:56 AM on November 14, 2014 [24 favorites]


I wonder, did Sassoon write this before or after the end of the war? It's dated 1918:


THE boys came back. Bands played and flags were flying,
And Yellow-Pressmen thronged the sunlit street
To cheer the soldiers who’d refrained from dying,
And hear the music of returning feet.
‘Of all the thrills and ardours War has brought,
This moment is the finest.’ (So they thought.)

Snapping their bayonets on to charge the mob,
Grim Fusiliers broke ranks with glint of steel,
At last the boys had found a cushy job.
. . . .

I heard the Yellow-Pressmen grunt and squeal;
And with my trusty bombers turned and went
To clear those Junkers out of Parliament.


They were afraid in England, too, that the returning troops would rebel like in Germany.
posted by Frowner at 8:59 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Memory is political work.

If you read the excellent books Lies My Teacher Told Me and Lies Across America, you'll find even more non-Christmas examples of this.

One such example: show of hands, what was Helen Keller known for? You're probably all familiar with the story of overcoming blindness and deafness and learning to speak, and then learning to write. So she was...like, a writer, right? that's what most people learn. Maybe they know some sort of vague sense of her activism for people with disabilities.

But practically no one knows that she was a socialist, and that a lot of her activism for the disabled was in support of workers who'd been disabled in industrial accidents. In an essay she wrote (which you probably didn't know about, called "Why I Became An IWW"), she wrote:
I was appointed on a commission to investigate the conditions of the blind. For the first time I, who had thought blindness a misfortune beyond human control, found that too much of it was traceable to wrong industrial conditions, often caused by the selfishness and greed of employers. And the social evil contributed its share. I found that poverty drove women to a life of shame that ended in blindness.
And yet today what people mostly know about her is the Patty Duke movie and that's it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:04 AM on November 14, 2014 [23 favorites]


Fallujah

I can imagine a Vietnam-themed xmas commercial for a supermarket.
posted by colie at 9:08 AM on November 14, 2014


(To clarify a thing: the production of a right-wing working class is both about widespread ideology (so that everyone assumes that the working class is right wing) and producing actual right wing-ness in working class people through jailing and silencing working class radicals, through strategic buy-offs of certain parts of the working class (as when white workers got rights that were denied to black workers), etc. So that it's not that there are no working class radicals, it's that cultural space for them is reduced and reduced, and they get written out of history until all people believe is that "hardhats versus hippies" nonsense.)
posted by Frowner at 9:13 AM on November 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Anyway, this is nothing. I've even seen a few people using religion to promote Christmas. Truly nothing is sacred anymore.
posted by sobarel at 9:17 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's also an issue of the elision of the traditional left - of workers' mobilisation - and the social left - gender, race, sexual orientation and so forth. It would be even more of a derail to go into it in detail, but the social left is a creature much more of the middle classes, of academia, and has been the "official" left for a while. The issue at the moment is rather more like this article outlines (Paul Mason, but I'm not obsessed. Or maybe I am. He's like a more credible Owen Jones.)

Regarding the actual post...

Has there ever been a comedy sketch thus (Dave Allen, perhaps): The set up is the Christmas football match, but it quickly devolves into a punch-up. The British and German officers come onto the pitch, exchange grown-ups' "kids, eh?" glances, and pack the soldiers off behind the lines with an injunction to "Grow up, and start killing each other properly"?
posted by Grangousier at 9:30 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Fallujah

I'm picturing Blinky the Predator Drone spending Christmas Eve raining death and destruction on insurgents until he sees a sad little boy on a rooftop, clearly from a poor family that can't afford presents. Blinky rejects the orders from his remote operator and swoops down through the front entrance of a Target store, coming out the back door with, I dunno, ninja turtles and Milton Bradley games and shit balanced on his wings. He delivers the presents to the grateful young child and takes off again, passing Santa on his sleigh. Santa gives Blinky a wink and a thumbs up. And scene.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:40 AM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Hmm. I personally think the ad is disgusting mawkishness and the more people call out Sainsburies on thier shit the better.

They did the same thing last year which also left a bad taste in my mouth:
2013 Sainsburies advert..

That ad consisted of a lot of little vignettes which ended with a family sending a video to their Dad /Husband who was stationed with the Army overseas, but who then makes a surprise entrance - having come home for Christmas - at the end.

Makes me want to stop shopping with them altogether.
posted by Faintdreams at 9:43 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Fallujah

Abu Ghraib Christmas T-Shirt
posted by chavenet at 9:55 AM on November 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Amazing T-Shirt
posted by colie at 9:58 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


One alternative would be that next time England played Germany they waited till kick off then machine gunned our boys. This would be less mawkish, stop Rooney being an automatic choice and give Hodgson his only convincing excuse ever.
posted by biffa at 10:00 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have often thought that one way to enliven dull football games would be land mines - "Quite extraordinary! Rooney has literally exploded!"
posted by Grangousier at 10:08 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Did millions of people lose their lives so we could shop for the very best in festive produce at a competitive price?"

Ouch.
posted by freebird at 10:57 AM on November 14, 2014


They did the same thing last year which also left a bad taste in my mouth[...] That ad consisted of a lot of little vignettes which ended with a family sending a video to their Dad /Husband who was stationed with the Army overseas, but who then makes a surprise entrance - having come home for Christmas - at the end.

See, I also watched that one, and just sort of disregarded the "christmas wish to Dad in the Army" one and focused on all the others, with the corny family moments (goofy unpoppingof-Christmas-Crackers! pulling the turkey out of the oven! The dog dressed up in a hat! Someone unwrapping something totally mundane and boring like toothpaste because that's what Dad puts in your stocking! Kids freaking out over toys!) and it triggered this huge flood of "wheeeeeee i can't wait for Christmas" energy that I may have to quell by watching Bad Santa later or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:03 AM on November 14, 2014


Next year - Aleksandr the Meerkat gets sent to the Gulag.

Didn't they actually do an ad featuring Aleksandr in a Czarist war setting? Battling his mortal enemies as I recall: the Mongoose.
posted by colie at 11:45 AM on November 14, 2014


The Monty the Penguin ad is glorious.
posted by epo at 11:48 AM on November 14, 2014


Didn't they actually do an ad featuring Aleksandr in a Czarist war setting?

Not sure, but we've definitely not yet seen his political re-education, acceptance of the dictatorship of the proletariat or renunciation of decadent western car insurance schemes.

If there's anything more Christmassy than a meerkat up before an NKVD troika for counterrevolutionary activities I've yet to hear it.
posted by sobarel at 12:49 PM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I really don't see it as being all that different from the deluge of other ads that exploit the spirit of Christmas

Lazy people who watch the ads deserve everything they get. It's the 21st Century. Get a Tivo. Use Bittorrent. Install Ad Block Plus. This Christmas, let's all try to starve the bastards.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:52 PM on November 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Goodwill to all men apart from those thieving fuckers?
posted by Grangousier at 2:05 PM on November 14, 2014


Fallujah

*Fallelujah
posted by MimeticHaHa at 2:24 PM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I watched the penguin ad the day before giving birth and was literally in shuddering sobs by the end.

Now just thinking about it is really helping with milk expression, I have to say!

Hormones and penguins are a hell of a drug cocktail.
posted by olinerd at 6:12 PM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


they went back to killing each other the next day! Making this about man's humanity to man is definitely whitewashing the actual point, that while yeah, it turns out they weren't so different, they were still willing and able to keep killing each other.

This is, for me, the fundamental difficulty with this advert. Commercialising the Christmas truces must necessarily obscure the significance of those events. The truces did illustrate humanity's capacity for peace, yes. But their brief durations illustrate our willingness to brutally slaughter even those we have called friends.

That mankind is capable of peace and yet lives among slaughter and misery is not a cosy Christmas message. It's a fucking tragedy. And it doesn't stop until we make it stop.

"The armada still waits in the night
For a tide to take us to war.
On islands hidden from light,
Wait Medina, Menéndez and Moore.

Let them raise flags on those shores
And stand their alone,
'Cause we're going home."

Armadas, Show of Hands
posted by howfar at 5:39 AM on November 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Monty the Penguin ad is a total ripoff of Calvin and Hobbes.
posted by ninthart at 1:40 AM on November 16, 2014


Live pause, fast forward and catch-up TV means that these adverts have passed me by. Shame on Sainsburys for using the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people as the basis to sell more overpriced groceries this Christmas. Disgraceful. Will next year's advert be Allied soldiers delivering Christmas goodies to a liberated concentration camp to commemorate 70 years since the end of WW2?

But Monty the Penguin is adorable.
posted by essexjan at 6:58 AM on November 16, 2014


I liked it.
posted by schmod at 7:13 AM on November 16, 2014


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