The advertising regulator has cleared Tesco’s Christmas TV campaign featuring Father Christmas bearing a Covid vaccine passport after it prompted 5,000 complaints from viewers.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said: “Having carefully assessed the 5,000 complaints we received about the Tesco Christmas ad campaign, we have concluded it doesn’t break our rules and there are no grounds for further action.
“In summary, we consider that the depiction of Santa displaying a proof of vaccine status in an airport is likely to be seen as a humorous reference to international travel rules people have experienced this year; it is unlikely to be interpreted as a message about these rules or the Covid-19 vaccine more widely.
“While we understand that some people disagree with the vaccine programme and may find the ad in poor taste, we have concluded that the ad is unlikely to be seen as irresponsible or cause serious or widespread offence on the basis suggested.”
The ad, titled This Christmas, Nothing’s Stopping Us, shows the supermarket’s customers determined to enjoy a proper Christmas with family and friends after last year’s Covid-related restrictions.
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.
The scene from the full 90-second ad, which is set to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, sparked fierce debate on social media after the ad launched last month.
One person tweeted: “Did I really just see a Christmas TV ad on ITV for Tesco to Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop me Now’ hit with families having fun / flying abroad etc & then a guy smiling flashing up his smart phone with a COVID passport on it?? Omg I am NEVER shopping at Tesco again #boycottTesco not ok.’”
Another tweeted: “Unacceptable and despicable. HUGE mistake on your part.”
The ASA said the large majority of complaints claimed the ad was coercive and encouraged medical discrimination based on vaccine status.