Watchdog Probes Tesco Christmas Ad Featuring Santa With Vaccine Passport After Complaints

By Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully
November 17, 2021 Updated: November 17, 2021

The UK’s advertising authority is currently reviewing whether an investigation is warranted against a Tesco advertisement featuring Santa Claus with a vaccine passport, after the ad prompted more than 1,500 complaints, the most received by an advert this year.

Set to the Queen track “Don’t Stop Me Now,” the 90-second promo premiered on Saturday during ITV’s “Celebrity Chase Special.”

Titled, “This Christmas, Nothing’s Stopping Us,” the ad shows people trying to overcome obstacles to make sure everything’s ready for Christmas. Last year, strict lockdowns prevented people from celebrating the holidays fully.

But then, a breaking news banner appears, saying that Santa could be quarantined. However, Santa is next shown with a COVID-19 vaccine passport indicating that he is inoculated and can now enter the country, much to everyone’s delight.

The scene sparked controversy on social media with many indicating that it was coercive of the company, and that the ad encourages medical discrimination.

Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, has supported the video commercial with billboards, posters, in-store displays, and radio promotions. The ad was described as a “rallying cry to show we’re made of harder stuff this year,” according to BBH, the London-based agency behind the campaign.

The UK’s advertisement monitor, the Advertising Standards Authority, said that it was reviewing complaints to understand whether there were any breaches to existing rules.

“We’ve currently received over 1,500 complaints regarding this ad,” said an ASA spokesperson, according to The Guardian. “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.”

Online Opposition

Following its release at the weekend, online users took to social media platforms to express their discontent. “I’m A Celebrity…” star Gillian McKeith encouraged people to use the hashtag #BoycottTesco on Twitter.

Other users tore up their Tesco Clubcards and threatened to boycott the retailer.

“Absolutely agree. I’m double vaxed, but support freedom of choice. Vaccine passports are anathema to a free society. Does that make me an ‘anti vaxer’? #BoycottTesco #NoVaccinePassportsAnywhere” Twitter user TrevM wrote as a response to media outlets calling detractors of the ad “anti-vaxxers.”

“Removed at least £300 per month of regular custom after 30+ years today, never to return. #BoycottTesco” another user.

Defenders of the ad got on the trending hashtag as well and voiced their support for Tesco.

“Tesco just became a lot safer this Christmas – thanks a lot anti-vaxxers! #BoycottTesco” said Paul N.

“Thank you to everyone who #BoycottTesco I got my Christmas delivery slots,” said a user named Emma Scissorhands.

The YouTube video of the ad has now garnered around 30,000 dislikes to 3,100 likes.

As a response to the public backlash, a Tesco spokeswoman 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.”

There has been a growing opposition all over the world to vaccine passports for accessing certain venues and outlets, with protesters claiming that it will result in the creation of a two-tiered society.