Marketing Brand Strategy Tesco

Tesco asserts Santa-vax Christmas ad broke no rules despite 1,500 ASA complaints


By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

November 15, 2021 | 3 min read

Tesco this weekend released a bombastic Christmas ad showing festive celebrants responsibly enjoying themselves. This included a vaccine passport-wielding Santa Claus, which has since inspired more than 1,500 complaints to the UK ad watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). However, Tesco has told The Drum it has broken no rules.

Tesco vaccine Santa

The Tesco ad depicts Santa Claus wielding a vaccine passport

The UK retailer’s Christmas ad was created by BBH and was set to the pulse-setting beat of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. The 90-second creative shows a news broadcast suggesting that Santa could be quarantined due to Covid-19 restrictions – he’s later seen entering the country (via an airport) wielding a vaccine passport.

In ‘This Christmas, Nothing’s Stopping Us,’ Tesco looked to dispel many of the anxieties people will be feeling this Christmas around the safety of their traveling family members and friends. The Santa gag addressed that in a bold fashion, but has attracted the ire of anti-vaccine groups. These groups are also said to be boycotting the retailer (it’s not Christmas without a Tesco boycott that comes to nothing).

The complaints were sent to the ASA, which polices a strict cohort of rules among UK advertisers. The volume of complaints has little bearing in any decision, but will often trigger an investigation faster if high. The ASA is still deliberating.

A Tesco spokesperson told 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. We set out to create a campaign that 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.”

The ASA said: “The large majority of complaints assert that the ad is coercive, and encourages medical discrimination based on vaccine status. We are currently carefully reviewing these complaints to determine whether there are any grounds for further action.”

Watch the ad below.

Marketing Brand Strategy Tesco

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