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With Tesco in deep financial trouble, Sainsbury's produces pure Hollywood to win the battle of the Christmas TV ads.

But not everyone approves of their version of the First World War Christmas truce of 1914 and now the supermarket is accused of cynically exploiting the 100th anniversary of the war to bring in the shoppers.

At the end of the advertisement, there appears the familiar supermarket logo and the punchline “Christmas is for sharing” but perhaps Sainsbury's missed a trick here: they should have simply deleted their name.

Imagine the publicity and then the conversations when it's realised that an advertiser has made a blockbusting multi-million pound TV ad lasting nearly four minutes without trying to sell themselves at the end?

The story on the 10 o'clock news alone and all the other surrounding publicity would have done the job for them.

Each time the advert appeared, the whole nation would know it was those nice people at Sainsbury's who sensitively and unselfishly decided not to use the First World War anniversary to push up their profits: brilliant!

Instead, the first broadcast resulted in 240 complaints from viewers who generally thought the advert was tasteless and had commercialised a solemn commemoration just days after armistice services across the nation.

The most profound criticism of the ad was that it was filmed in such high quality that it made the war look beautiful.

Sainsbury's, of course, attempted to head off any criticism in advance by making the film in partnership with the Royal British Legion to whom they will make a significant cash donation.

In the advertisement, a British Tommy discreetly places a chocolate bar in the greatcoat of a German soldier who realises this Christmas generosity when, back in his trench, he puts his hand in his pocket.

The chocolate bar, in authentic antique wrapping and which was apparently sold by Sainsbury's in 1914, is on sale again this Christmas for £1 with every 50p going to the Legion.

It's so popular that Sainsbury's is selling 5000 bars every hour which means that every store is selling at least £50,000 worth a day.

But no-one is going to Sainsbury's just to buy a First Word War chocolate bar; the supermarket undoubtedly hopes that by the time shoppers re-appear, they'll be pushing an overloaded trolley.

There's another aspect about this TV advertisement which is controversial and that is the recreation of a football match reputed to have taken place between British and German soldiers in no-man's land.

By Christmas 1914, more than one million men had already been killed and the familiar shell-holed landscape was very evident unlike the flat grass-covered field under a sunshine sky depicted by Sainsbury's.

Letters home from soldiers describing the match appeared in newspapers of the day – the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders apparently won 4-1 ---and the story gained currency with the publication of a Robert Graves poem in 1962 but there is much doubt about it.

What's more likely is that any game was played not with a football but with a can of bully beef and lasted only seconds.

Opposing soldiers did indeed swap cigarettes and bottles much to the anger of the British top-brass who took steps to ensure that fraternisation could never happen again ---they ordered artillery bombardments to start on Christmas Eve.

Perhaps it's no co-incidence that Sainsbury's produced their advertisement.

Tesco, after a series of profit warnings, is embroiled in an accountancy scandal after overstating their balance sheet by £250 million; four of their senior executives have been suspended.

And the German discount stores of Aldi and Lidl have seen their share of the market boosted while the “big four” --- Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrison's --- have been on a dramatic slide.

According to the YouGov brand index, Aldi merchandise was voted most favourite - ahead of stuff from John Lewis, the BBC iPlayer and Samsung, while Lidl is constantly praised for the high quality of its Christmas champagne, Serrano ham and lobster.

Unlike British supermarkets, which offer such a confusing choice of 40,000 different products, Aldi and Lidl concentrate on just 1500 lines making shopping easier and faster.

There are no loyalty cards, fancy aisles, home delivery or help with packing to keep their costs to a minimum.

Also, the Germans are private companies so there are no shareholders to worry about or dividends to be paid out.

It maybe that Sainsbury's, who are launching their own discount store called “Netto”, think it's high time the Germans were put back in their place.

But - to use a First World War expression - don't shoot yourself in the foot!


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