UK supermarket titan Tesco has just released its new Christmas commercial for 2021 – and it’s more a case of Ho Ho Hmm… than Ho Ho Ho, according to incensed viewers who have complained en masse about a controversial scene featuring Santa Claus.
Set to the tune of Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, the 90-second campaign about overcoming obstacles to find festive joy, has become the most complained about ad of the year (scroll down to view it). Following more than 1,500 complaints, the UK regulatory watchdog is now reviewing claims that Tesco’s Santa is “coercive” and “encourages medical discrimination”, while a #BoycottTesco campaign is gathering steam.
But what has Old Saint Nick done to land himself in so much hot water?
The ad starts off innocently enough with an intrepid elderly shopper outside a Tesco store, intent on making sure she has everything ready for Christmas. On her journey home, she comes across other merrymakers overcoming problems such as stock shortages, icy runways and lockdowns, to celebrate in style.
Then, a TV reporter appears with a “breaking news” headline that Santa could be quarantined this Christmas. But fear not, because Santa flashes his Covid-19 vaccine passport at border control and is duly allowed to enter the country.
Predictably, the inclusion of Santa’s vaccine pass in the Christmas campaign has enraged anti-vaxxers everywhere. In the wake of its release on the weekend (November 14), I’m A Celebrity star Gillian McKeith, 62, joined anti-vaxxers in launching a #BoycottTesco campaign on social media.
#tesco has a new Christmas advert that celebrates #discrimination & #segregation via a fully jabbed Santa who shows his medical status! Who in their right mind in management thought this was a good idea? If you don’t #BoycottTesco then you are #complicit pic.twitter.com/RcR8EsJC42
— Gillian McKeith (@GillianMcKeith) November 14, 2021
Others on Twitter believed that pandemic politics have no place in a Christmas commercial:
Tweeted one: “Poor taste #tesco Santa with a Covid pass! I want to forget about bloody covid, I don’t want to be forced to have a medical treatment and I certainly don’t want to show a pass to get in anywhere. I’ve always shopped at Tesco, time for a change! #tescoboycott”
Meanwhile, a number of wags pointed out that if anti-Vaxxers deserted Tesco stores in drove this Christmas, they’d be able to shop safer from the risk of Covid:
“Heading to Tesco now, safe in the knowledge that all the antivaxers have decided to #BoycottTesco because they got triggered by Santa showing a Covid pass in an advert. Thanks for doing your bit to keep us all safe. Stay home.”
Said another: “I love the @Tesco new Christmas ad! In particular I’m loving how upset people are getting over this image through the #BoycottTesco hashtag. They are just making light of the situation! I look forward to easily booking my Christmas slot on Tuesday now!!”
Some viewers couldn’t see what all the fuss was about: “For all those complaining about the #Tesco advert . . . Shut up and get back in your box! It’s brilliant, honest and hilariously funny, so I will not be joining the #BoycottTesco nutters. I will be following their advice and enjoying #Christmas no matter what!!!”
Rallying against the backlash, Tesco has said:
“We set out to create a campaign which took a light-hearted view on how the nation is feeling and it has been well-received by colleagues and customers.
“We are still in the midst of a pandemic and the advert reflects the current rules and regulations regarding international travel,” said the retailer.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is currently investigating the complaints to decide whether to take further action.
“The large majority of complaints assert that the ad is coercive, and encourages medical discrimination based on vaccine status,” said an ASA spokesman.