Christmas marketing - the misses

In our last post we recounted some of the most memorable, and in our opinion best, Christmas marketing campaigns in recent years, and this week we are going to run through some of those which are memorable for more negative reasons.


In 2012 Asda had a Christmas ad (“Behind every great Christmas, there’s mum”) that, according to the Guardian, attracted attention ‘for all the wrong reasons’. It played on tired stereotypes by depicting women as the ones in charge of cooking at Christmas time, playing into the outdated housewife image. In doing so, it created an ad that was, understandably, not exactly popular among its viewers.


Tesco had a Christmas price-drop campaign in 2011 that could certainly be considered unsuccessful – they lost £5 million and dropped 5 shares. The campaign failed to speak to their family-orientated audience, and seemed to lack substance, resulting in a campaign that was ultimately not profitable.


In 2012, Morrisons’ Christmas campaign resulted in the company being investigated by the ASA, as its 20 second ad featured a boy feeding his dog Christmas pudding under the table; this resulted in a lot of complaints since the raisins in Christmas puddings can cause kidney failures in some animals. 150 viewers complained that this was reckless as it could lead to people copying the ad and feeding the potentially fatal pudding to their own pets.


In 2013, Boots was accused of trivialising LGBT+ issues by using the song Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat, with anti-homophobia themes, in an unrelated Christmas ad. The song is an important one for the gay community and its use in a seemingly harmless advert was considered insensitive as it took attention away from the song’s message (the song is about a boy from a small town who is forced to leave due to his sexuality).

Mr Kipling

An ad for Mr Kipling’s mince pies in 2004 managed the almost impressive feat of racking up 797 complaints. The complaints had a range of concerns: many felt that the ad mocked the religious aspect of Christmas as a holy event, while others felt it was too graphic and was potentially upsetting for some viewers. As a result, the ad was withdrawn.

So far this year there has been no real scandal regarding Christmas ads – the worst response was from some mums angry at the John Lewis Christmas ad because it may make children think monsters are real. However, with 22 days left before Christmas, we will be keeping our eyes peeled for any controversial Christmas ads still to come!