Is the Sainsburys Christmas Advert Exploiting the World War One Centenary?
UK supermarket Sainsbury’s has divided opinion over its Christmas advert based on the 1914 truce in no man’s land between British and German soldiers.
The World War One imagery, ending with the message ‘Christmas is a time for sharing’, has been praised by some as genius and slated by others as exploitative of the sentiment felt by many during the centenary year.
Sainbury’s made the advert in partnership with the Royal British Legion, a charity dedicated to the wellbeing of war veterans, and claim it has received positive responses, though the Daily Mail says that hundreds of complaints have been filed to the advertising watchdog.
The three minute-plus advert feels like a short film, and shows soldiers in the trenches on Christmas night, before laying down their weapons and coming together in no man’s land. The story of the 1914 Christmas football match is folklore.
That the advert will doubtlessly raise extra funds for the Royal British Legion will be enough for some to say it has been a cause worthwhile, though the fact this is ultimately an advert for Sainsbury’s and thus a commercial tool will leave a sense of distaste among others.
Controversial or not, the ad will be competing with the child-penguin story portrayed by John Lewis, a retailer which for many years has monopolised the sentiment of the UK at Christmas with its heart-felt festive commercials.
According to the Mail the John Lewis ad's stuffed penguins (£95 each) have sold like hotcakes since it aired and rivals are spending millions to outdo it, and only just competing on the viewing figures front. According to City A.M. Sainsbury’s gained 4.03 million YouTube views, while John Lewis was slightly ahead on 4.17 million YouTube views within 24 hours of going live.
Watch the video below to see if you think Sainsbury’s can compete with John Lewis, and whether you believe the supermarket is exploiting centenary sentiment.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”