Robert Hampton

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14th November 2014

War! What is it good for? Ad-solutely nothing
Posted by at 7.02pm | Television | No responses

The unveiling of the big store chains’ Christmas ads seems to be a big event these days. Leader of the pack is John Lewis, who have given us adorable kids, shopping snowmen and, this year, horny lonely penguins.

Sainsbury’s, meanwhile, have upped the ante on heartstring-tugging with their commercial inspired by the First World War. It’s based upon the legendary Christmas Truce of 1914, when some German and British troops emerged from their front lines to exchange gifts, sing carols and even play a football match or two.

Watching it for the first time, I felt uncomfortable. There was something, I don’t know… off about it. The ad was made with the co-operation of the Royal British Legion, who will receive a cut of the proceeds from some of Sainsbury’s Christmas food. But exploiting one of the bloodiest wars in history to get people through the doors of a supermarket? That seems wrong to me.

There was something beyond that, though – something which was unsettling to me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Then I saw this column by Ally Fogg in the Guardian, which nails it:-

Exploiting the first world war for commercial gain is tasteless. This, however, is not what disturbs me most. The really upsetting details are the stunning shot of the robin on the wire, the actors’ trembles as they cautiously emerge from the trenches, half expecting a sniper’s bullet, the flicker of understanding in the eyes as the young soldiers reach into their pockets at the end. The film-makers here have done something to the first world war which is perhaps the most dangerous and disrespectful act of all: they have made it beautiful.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that higher-ups in the army on both sides forbade the Christmas 1914 events from happening again. On subsequent Christmas Days the soldiers blasted away at each other, as they did every other day of the war.

Iceland’s advert (starring Peter Andre) looks positively tasteful by comparison.

25th April 2013

Adobe-lieve it

This is a really strange advert for Adobe Photoshop, and I’m not talking about the terrible English dubbing:

The advert shows off some of the editing functions available in Photoshop, by way of a woman trying to arrange her family in a photo. It starts off with her doing some minor adjustments, but then it goes on to rearranging the composition, changing the lighting, removing Dad’s walking stick, and even adding a “Happy Birthday” banner that wasn’t there.

Are we really at the stage where people need to edit and touch-up family snapshots to look good? Is Dad’s disability really such a source of shame that the family need to remove evidence of it? Surely family snapshots should be a real, accurate of the event as it happened?

Why not go the whole hog and insert Justin Bieber into the photo? I’m sure Emma would have appreciated having him at her birthday party. While we’re at it, let’s change the background completely and pretend that the party took place on the Moon.

I disapprove, but I suppose for family photos this kind of image doctoring is harmless enough. Newspapers, on the other hand, should know better. The New York Daily News was heavily criticised last week for editing an image of Boston bombing victims to make their injuries look less gory (WARNING: images at that link show the graphic, unedited photos).