A Tesco Christmas advertisement that wound up anti-vaxxers has been cleared by an advertising watchdog after receiving over 5,000 complaints.

The advert, which shows Santa holding a coronavirus vaccine passport, has been approved by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) who said it doesn’t break any rules.

Set to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, the upbeat 90-second ad shows people celebrating the festive season. In the middle of the advert however, a breaking news alert states that Santa may have to be quarantined.

The video then cuts to a clip of Santa showing his coronavirus vaccine passport to a border control agent.

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Anti-vaxxers threatened to boycott Tesco over this particular scene, with one Twitter user slamming the commercial as “woke PC propaganda b*******”.

Playing on other headlines from the year, the supply-chain crisis is incorporated into the ad as snowmen are seen with leeks and aubergines instead of Jack Frost’s usual carrot schnozz. The ever-changing travel restrictions also made their way into the ad with a pilot stopping and starting on a runway as the lights change between “travel” and “don’t travel”.

In a statement published in the Guardian, an ASA spokesperson said: “Having carefully assessed the 5,000 complaints we received about the Tesco Christmas ad campaign, we have concluded it doesn’t break our rules and there are no grounds for further action.

“We consider that the depiction of Santa displaying a proof of vaccine status in an airport is likely to be seen as a humorous reference to international travel rules people have experienced this year. It is unlikely to be interpreted as a message about these rules or the Covid-19 vaccine more widely.”

They added: “While we understand that some people disagree with the vaccine programme and may find the ad in poor taste, we have concluded that the ad is unlikely to be seen as irresponsible or cause serious or widespread offence on the basis suggested.”

In a statement to indy100 today, a Tesco spokesperson said they aimed to take a “light-hearted view” on the current situation and said the advertisement has been well-received by colleagues and customers.

They said: “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 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.”

In total the advert received 5,009 complaints from the public, making it the second most complained about advert of all time in the UK.

The most complained about advert of all time is from Paddy Power, who stoked controversy in 2014 after using athlete Oscar Pistorius in a campaign. The betting company offered punters “money back if he walks” in reference to the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The ASA received 5,525 complaints over the advert.

Well, given how many houses Santa is going to visit this year, we’re sure parents across the globe will be glad to know Father Christmas is being Covid-safe.

Indy100 has contacted the ASA for comment.

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