In which I have seen some ads and some theatre

I know, surprising, isn’t it? But the big retailer Christmas ads have been released and then Twitter was alive with comment on them so I had to pop over to YouTube and watch them. I’m not linking to them, neither of them deserve it. The John Lewis ad was almost instantly forgettable, except for the penguins, but the Random Penguins promptly hijacked it with a much better version:

And now that I work in marketing I have to salute their agile marketing and wish that in my day job I could afford their agency.

The Sainsbury’s ad filled me with a slow-burning fury. If you haven’t seen it, in a nutshell it appropriates the Christmas Day truce that happened in some places along the trenches during WWI. Some British and German soldiers apparently came out and played football in No Man’s Land. Some just carried on killing each other, but Sainsbury’s chose not to deal with that bit. The ad is beautifully shot, actual historians were involved in the making, they tried very hard to be historically accurate, blah blah blah. My teeny-tiny objection is that nothing, absolutely nothing, justifies taking a war in which so many people died, and using it to sell stuff. Nothing. In a particularly classy touch, the ad released the same week as Armistice Day. Yes. A fitting memorial to the dead is if we all hightail it to Sainsbos to buy their special reproduction wartime chocolate bars.

I expect some of the Sainsbury’s demographic were at the Haymarket Theatre on Saturday night, watching Great Britain. The play is set in the office of a tabloid newspaper, The Free Press, which could stand in for any of the real red tops. It successfully satirized tabloids in general, but particularly phone hacking. There was a lot of swearing, the jokes came thick and fast and the dubious deals (we’ll put in you No. 10 if you end the BBC’s license fee) and dodgy networking (news editor of paper fucking the Met’s Asst Commissioner who promptly ‘lost’ evidence) are probably pretty close to the mark. I enjoyed the play, while simultaneously thinking that it didn’t add anything to the debate about how ghastly the tabloids are and how culpable the Great British public is in continuing to support them.

I think satire is tough now that we’ve had The Thick of It, and also now that there seems to be a weekly revelation proving that anyone in any position of authority is exactly as corrupt, fucked up and blinded by their own power as you hope they wouldn’t be. The bottom line seems to be that if they can do it they will, whether that’s MPs misusing expenses, or GCHQ listening to conversations that are out of their jurisdiction. It’s no wonder that Marvel can line up superhero movies through to 2018; we all need to think that some wrongs are being righted by someone, somewhere. Or maybe that’s just me, and my crushes on Robert Downey, Jr. and Jeremy Renner.

Still, while the disasters keep piling up, it’ll keep Sainsbury’s in inappropriate Christmas ad material for years to come.