Tesco’s festive TV ad featuring Santa Claus bearing a Covid vaccine passport has prompted more than 1,500 complaints, making it the most complained-about advert of the year.
The advert, titled “This Christmas, Nothing’s Stopping Us”, shows the public determined to enjoy a proper Christmas with family and friends after lockdown restrictions prevented gatherings last year.
However, in one scene a reporter appears on TV with “breaking news” telling viewers that “Santa could be quarantined”. Father Christmas is then shown presenting his Covid pass at border control, proving he has been vaccinated to a customs officer so he can enter the country without restriction. Most of the complaints made to the UK advertising regulator state the scene is coercive and encourages medical discrimination.
The scene sparked controversy on social media, attracting criticism from those in the anti-vaccination movement.
The Advertising Standards Authority, which enforces the UK advertising code, said that it is reviewing the complaints to see if they warrant an investigation for a potential breach of the rules.
“We’ve currently received over 1,500 complaints regarding this ad,” said an ASA spokesperson. “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.”
The 90-second ad, which is set to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, premiered on Saturday during ITV’s Celebrity Chase Special. It is being supported by a mix of press and out-of-home advertising, such as poster sites, billboards and bus stops and sides, as well as radio, social media promotion and in-store displays.
At launch, BBH, the London-based ad agency behind the campaign, described the ad as a “rallying cry to show we’re made of harder stuff this year”.
Tesco has been approached for comment.