Which of the following is the most outlandish; a tribe of sentient carrots, a polar bear enjoying an ice-cold Coke, or a black family celebrating Christmas?
If you’re one of the 240 abhorrent racists who formally complained about Sainsbury’s 2020 Christmas advert, it is the latter. The advert, entitled ‘Gravy Song’, is one of three, all attempting to reflect those small, personal, perfect little quirks which make your family Christmas, yours.
Gravy Song is not a groundbreaking advert in itself. It’s not dissimilar to the COVID content we’ve seen all year – grainy home video, long distance loved ones, the works – but it breaks new festive ground by representing more than just one type of family.
In the last few years, BAME representation in adverts has doubled, but, tellingly, the percentage of adverts which include a person of colour as the hero or main protagonist, sits at less than 7%. And that is what this is really all about.
The John Lewis advert features multiple non-white characters – where are the complaints? Where is the backlash? It’s minimal, because when BAME people are tokens, or background, that’s acceptable to closet EDL-ers. The irony is that the other two adverts are very white – and honestly, not my cup of tea creatively (the acting alone) – so it’s not as though this is even an all black series from Sainsbury’s.
For me, the racist reaction to Gravy Song is a stark reminder of the responsibility we as creatives have to properly represent the full spectrum of humanity. The shock and fury prompted by this genuinely innocuous advert indicates just how white the ad landscape currently is – black fronted adverts should not be remarkable, they should be standard.
It is not enough to nod to racial diversity – it never was, but after the year we have had, there is less than no excuse for whitewashing. Not only is it immoral, it’s shortsighted. The customers of tomorrow want brands which reflect the world we live in, and those who keep ads whiter than white, will inevitably be left behind.