The Christmas advert is a “creative interpretation” of Christmas Day 1914 when British and German soldiers laid down their weapons and met on neutral territory to share greetings, treats, mementoes and even a game of football.
Sainsbury’s reconstructed the trench scenes with the help of a war historian to celebrate the supermarket’s 20 years of support for the Royal British Legion, which runs the annual poppy campaign.
However, Sainsbury’s has been accused of hypocrisy with its plan to knock down the Memorial Stadium in Bristol and replace it with a new store.
The ground — home to Bristol Rovers Football Club — was built in 1921 in memory of 300 rugby players who died in the First World War.
A campaigner against the new store, Jamie Carstairs said: “Sainsbury’s advert is slick, manipulative, artful film-making — and also a tawdry, tasteless and inappropriate use of WW1 sacrifices and memories.
’The company has long planned and spent thousands preparing to destroy Bristol’s famous war memorial sports ground in Bristol.
“Sainsbury’s are indeed being blatantly hypocritical. If only they would at least try to understand what the Memorial Ground is, before they destroy it. (They) have failed to grasp a basic fact: that the gates on their own do not constitute the war memorial.
“Nor have they appreciated how utterly disgraceful and tawdry and insulting their plans are,” he said.
Sainsbury’s said it will build a new memorial within the new development using existing materials. The ad follows a British soldier as he hears enemy troops singing Silent Night in German and ventures into “no man’s land” before soldiers from both sides join him and shake hands.
He shares a moment of friendship with a young German soldier and, as the truce ends and they return to their trenches, the German is moved to discover his British friend has hidden the gift of a chocolate bar in his pocket.
Meanwhile, the Christmas advert has attracted 240 complaints to Britain’s advertising watchdog for its ‘cynical’ use of the First World War to promote its brand.