The difference between the holidays this year and the last is that you don’t have to be confined to virtual gatherings anymore. Traveling for reunions is an option—but you’ll have to be vaccinated first.
Even Santa Claus needs a vaccine passport to deliver gifts around the world, according to Tesco’s 2021 Christmas film, which has chalked up criticism from anti-vaccination viewers who don’t believe a festive commercial is the place to host a COVID-19 PSA. As of the time of writing, the commercial has been downvoted 22,000 times but only received 2,100 likes on YouTube.
The Guardian reports that over 1,500 complaints have been made to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). In terms of numbers, the grocery chain’s festive commercial is now the nation’s “most complained-about advert of the year,” the news outlet adds.
In the spot titled This Christmas, Nothing’s Stopping Us, people are shown attending in-person parties and getting ready to reunite with loved ones after a restrictive Christmas last year. A spanner seems to be thrown in the works when a news anchor interrupts television shows to report that “Santa could be quarantined,” though that’s quickly cleared up as Father Christmas later appears at border control and presents his vaccine passport.
The advertising agency behind the project, BBH, said during its launch that the commercial, set to the Queen anthem Don’t Stop Me Now, is a “rallying cry to show we’re made of harder stuff this year.”
The film’s intentions have been ripped to shreds, however. The ASA says it is reviewing more than 1,500 complaints about the advertisement, with the majority of them accusing it of being “coercive and [encouraging] medical discrimination based on vaccine status.”
As the watchdog and enforcer of the UK advertising code, the ASA adds that it is investigating to ascertain if “there are any grounds for further action.”
In response to the disdain, a spokesperson for Tesco informs The Drum: “We respect everyone’s views and we know that Christmas is a hugely important time for many of our customers and, after last year’s events, that is truer now than ever.” The company stresses that the commercial “reflects the current rules and regulations regarding international travel,” hence suggesting that it isn’t breaking any rules.
In the chain’s eyes, the campaign is delivered in a “lighthearted” manner reflecting “how the nation is feeling,” Tesco describes.