Much discussion has been had in recent weeks, among theInternet, the national press and on this very site, about a “controversial”Christmas advertisement from Sainsburys.

In case you haven’t seen it, the ad in question is a reconstructionof the World War I Christmas Truce, an unofficial ceasefire in which Britishand German troops put down their weapons in the name of Christmas spirit, exchangedgood will, played football, before going right back to their trenches the verynext day to go back to blowing each other up. Such an event never occurred againin the remaining years of the conflict.

And so Sainsburys, one of Britain’s leading supermarketchains, has also followed the Christmas spirit, and for their big glossyChristmas ad this year, has filmed a version of these events, the onlydifference being that it strikes the casual viewer as a little more, shall wesay, “Hollywood”.

This is understandable. Advertisers naturally don’t want tofeature gritty realism and bodies being blown apart, particularly at Christmas.However it begs the question: why use this event to promote a commercialenterprise?

Is it simply following in the tradition of recent years ofcreating “short films” for Christmas as opposed to an “advert”? (See John Lewisfor a recent, hideous example of this). Is it a celebration, a historical reminder?This year has been after all the 100th anniversary of the outbreakof the “war to end all wars” (should we expect an advert depicting the Battleof the Somme for 2016?

By Tesco maybe?). Or is it a cynical and cruel attemptto cash in on the recent sensitive wave of national sentimentality?

I suspect the answer is a combination of all thesequestions. However, this doesn't excuse what is, in this writer’s opinion, acrass and misjudged campaign.

The “short film” angle. Yes, it may look and sound pretty.

But it’s an advert, the whole point, the wholeexercise of advertising, is to present either an idealised reflection ofreality, or to create an absurdly exaggerated reality, both of these to presentthe product in a good light. Looking and sounding beautiful does not let thisad off the hook. If anything, it makes it worse. The First World War was notbeautiful.

It was not Hollywood. It was the one of, if not the, bloodiestconflict in recent history. Doesn't sound like good material to promote asupermarket does it?

But wait you say, Sainsburys produced this ad in conjunctionwith the Royal British Legion, who will also be receiving hefty financial remuneration.I don’t believe this excuses the act in the first place. You can’t get awaywith whatever you want as long as you donate to a charity. Why not just donateas an act in itself?

I am reminded of comments made by Michael Gove, the formerEducation Secretary, earlier this year, in which he blasted so called “Blackadder”myths about the First World War. He argued that the war should not be depictedas a “misbegotten shambles” and should be presented as “just a war”.

No war is just a war. And you could argue that the verynature of war itself is a misbegotten shambles. Not something that should be sentimentalisedmade comfy, safe. That is an incredibly dangerous and disrespectful act notjust for previous generations, but for future ones too.

Why do I bring up Mr Gove? Because this ad to me, representshow he would like people to remember the conflict. As smiles and hand shakingand football and chocolate. I had hoped his comments would not be taken tooseriously.

Albeit, someone at the Sainsburys marketing department waslistening evidently.