A week or so ago, the BBC asked me onto a radio programme.
Itâs called Moral Maze, and it does what it says on the can.
It debates moral issues.
There were four panellists: all journalists from The Mail and The Guardian.
Guests are questioned, on air, by that panel.
All I knew was that it was going to be about Sainsburyâs Christmas ad.
The four panellists were obviously anti-advertising.
But they had a moral problem with this ad in particular.
The ad takes place in 1914, itâs Christmas and the British and German troops come out of the trenches and play football.
Seems fair enough: centenary of WW1, a million poppies in the Tower of London, Sainsburyâs sell bars of chocolate to raise money for the British Legion.
It all links, so no problem.
Except for the panel of journalists.
One journalist, from The Daily Mail, said history should be treated with reverence, this was trivialising it.
I said I thought it was the one nice part of the war, when humans stopped killing each other for five minutes.
She said, how could I possibly say the First World War was nice?
Er, I donât think thatâs what I said.
But a journalist from The Guardian tried a different tack.
Was I saying that it would be okay for Ryman, the stationers, to use Anne Frank in an advertising campaign?
(Anne Frank was the young Jewish girl who hid in an attic from the Nazis, keeping a diary.)
This question took me back for a minute.
Anne Frank died in the death camps, what could that possibly have to do with Ryman?
Then the penny dropped: a diary, Ryman sell diaries.
Do they actually think what we do is as crass as that?
The question was so dopey I got confused.
They hadnât got the point of what we do at all.
If thereâs a genuine connection, it works.
If there isnât it doesnât.
Ryman is about stationery.
But Anne Frank wasnât about stationery, she was about persecution.
Anne Frank might work in an ad for Amnesty International which is also about persecution.
But it only works if thereâs a genuine connection.
Itâs like saying Jesus was nailed to the cross, B&Q sell nails: letâs use Jesus in a B&Q ad.
Jesus isnât about nails, Jesus is about universal love.
Suppose it was an ad for Oxfam, about millions of children dying, and it ended with a quote from Jesus: âEven as you do it to the least of my children so you do it unto meâ.
Then it might work, because thereâs a connection.
But nails isnât a connection anymore than paper is a connection.
The point is, nothing is intrinsically wrong to use as long as thereâs a genuine connection.
The Sainsburyâs ad has a genuine connection.
Iâm pretty sure itâs not advertising being tasteless here.
Iâm pretty sure, for once, itâs not us being thick.
Iâm pretty sure itâs the journalists misunderstanding what we do.
The only question is, were they doing it on purpose or are they really that dopey?
I think those journalists should stick to journalism.