Thursday, 13 November 2014

No man's land…

I watched the new Sainsbury’s Christmas ad last night. It beautifully recounts a moment in history that really says something about the nature of war and all those involved in it. I’m pretty cynical about those cutesy Christmas ads, but this one really is something else. It’s a tiny docudrama that tells the tale of two young soldiers, an Englishman and a German, who forge a brief friendship at Christmas and how the gift of giving is what Christmas is all about.

Of course there’s a gloss to it, it’s a little over-sentimentalised, but all the horror is still there and there’s no product placement, no cynical attempt to sell, sell, sell, based on the story that unfolds.  

The First World War must have been so terrible for all those men in the trenches regardless of the side that they were fighting on. British, German, French, what difference did it make? They were all just men and boys caught up in something they had no control over and certainly didn’t have part in causing.

Men and boys away from home and loved ones, frightened and uncomfortable, lost in so many ways.

I guess most people were aware of the story of the Christmas no-man’s land truce before this new Sainsbury’s ad; a brief break in the fighting to play a game of football on Christmas Day. Most of these types of story are myths like the Mons Angel, but in this case it’s all true. All along those deep trenches of the Western Front back in 1914 men stopped firing at each other, sang carols together, met up, even played a game or two of football and became friends for a few brief hours.

Of course it was all unofficial, not sanctioned by the governments of any side involved and it wasn’t universal, some men kept shooting. It all depended on where on the front line you were. The following year the military forbade it, although some ignored the order and kept Christmas with each other still. But by the Christmas of 1917 the combination of orders from above and the sheer level of bloodiness and despair meant that the Christmas truce stopped happening and the killing went on despite the sanctity of the day. Such a shame, but then that whole war was a shame in the truest sense of the word.

Look, I could go on about how this advert is still selling Sainsbury’s brand. I could suggest that it’s just Sainsbury’s sticking it to John Lewis. I could argue that selling anything on the back of such a bloody conflict can’t possibly be right, even a pound bar of chocolate with all the profits going to the Royal British Legion. I could, but I won’t. The advert really got to me and I think most people will come away with the right message rather than the urge to dash to Sainsbury’s to buy overly expensive goods.

I hate to say it, but I admire Sainsbury’s a little for doing this.

27 comments:

  1. Lucy Whitehead on FB
    AND.. the Englishman is a northerner... Maybe even a Manc! Wooooo!

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    Replies
    1. Andrew Height
      Aye, he is that lass.

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  2. Cloe Fyne
    I don't often like retailers but I did here too! No selling, just the message .....

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    1. Andrew Height
      You like chocolate though Cloe.

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    2. Cloe Fyne
      I do but don't often eat it! ;-

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    3. Andrew Height
      Might be better if you did.

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  3. Vicky Sutcliffe
    Reading this made me smile x

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    Replies
    1. Andrew Height
      That is why I do it Vicky. You made my day.

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  4. Tim Preston on FB
    I just can't find it in myself to like it. It may just be because it is about Christmas which I have come to completely detest over the years. mainly because of it's inability to deliver happiness no matter how much I get, how much I eat and how much I drink. I'm basically just a grumpy old man living on his own who won't give you your ball back if you kick it into my garden! Bah!

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    Replies
    1. Andrew Height
      Want to meet up for a drink some time Tim? I'll bring the chocolate. Let me know

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  5. Clare Pritchard on FB
    I've just been reaching for the kitchen rolll ....

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  6. Tim Preston on FB
    what's galling is that it's playing with people's emotions to make them part with their cash. It's still verification of a very sick society

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    1. Andrew Height
      I managed, for once, to leave that out of the equation Tim. I think this ad captures something over and above the buy from Sainsbury's message. There is no product placement here, no push of the Sainsbury brand, just a film about a real event (well actually there were a number of them) showing tired young men forgetting the awful things they had to do for a few hours. Just people.

      Maybe I am going soft in my old age, but I don't mind the message in this at all.

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  7. Clare Pritchard
    The futility of war....

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    Replies
    1. Andrew Height
      war is brokered by the powerful and fought by the innocent.

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  8. Nick Jones on FB
    My first thought was the same as Tim's, until I read the article:

    "While some may question why the supermarket is using WWI as a promotional tool, the advert is a joint venture with the Royal British Legion. The chocolate bar featured in the advert will be on sale for £1, with all profits going to the charity."

    Can you really ask for much more than that from a Christmas ad by a supermarket these days?

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  9. Nick Jones on FB
    Also, at least it's factual, unlike the John Lewis ad. I can't find any sexually frustrated penguins for sale on their website.

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  10. Joan McGeeon FB
    I'm in bits.Thats powerful because it really happened.In the days that followed they tried to avoid direct fire.Some of the German and British soldiers remained friends after the war.

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  11. Paul Eddison
    Bet the Germans won the game on penalties!

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  12. Nicola Moore on FB
    Touching...

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  13. Cloe Fyne on FB
    I though this www great! Bought a choc bar!

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  14. Sarah Farmer on FB
    Personally the children whom we teach found the advert thought provoking and lifelike for them. Why? They are learning about World War One in topic work. I personally didn't see the advert as flogging Sainsbury's. I don't think it laughed in the faces of those who died for us and continue to die for us. I DONT feel it did what was suggested. I have learnt more about World War One through so much work recently. (I took Geography not history) Thank you for rounding off our topic work so poignantly.

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    1. Andrew Height
      Agreed Sarah. I actually think it will make more people think about those men who gave their lives than any amount of memorial services. Yes, it's too clean. Yes, it is paid for by a supermarket as an advertising piece. But I don't feel that it's cynical in any way.


      Delete
  15. Andy B D Bickerdike on FB
    Just watched and by far the better xmas advert... none of this grabbing of presents, or have to buy overpriced nonsense that you don't need... just gives you what xmas should be, about coming together friends and family, a time to forgive, religious or not.

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  16. Paul Eddison on FB
    Isn't the newspaper writing about the ad & war for commercial gain too- Don't see a problem with it to be honest.

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  17. Andy Taylor on FB
    I love that ad Andy. It highlights the true spirit of Christmas more than anything else. The fact that it's done in cooperation with the Royal British Legion gives it credibility too. It really drums home how futile and pointless war actually is, which can't be a bad thing.

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