ASA investigates Morrisons Xmas ads

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has launched two formal investigations into Morrisons’ festive adverts on separate counts of sexism and for the potential harm one of the ads could cause to dogs if emulated - as it features a dog being fed a “potentially lethal” Christmas pudding.

A 20-second ad from the supermarket has been met with backlash from dog charities and veterinary groups because it features a boy handing a dog some Christmas pudding under the table. The 150 complainants to the ASA have asserted this could kill a dog if emulated because raisins can cause kidney failure in the animals.

Complaints to the ASA have challenged that the ad is “irresponsible” and “harmful” because it implies it is acceptable to feed Christmas pudding to dogs and that it could encourage children to feed Christmas pudding to dogs - even though the dog is not actually seen eating it in the ad.

Last week The Kennel Club became the latest group to express concern about the ad, which was created by DLKW Lowe. It also said by exposing children to this advert it may encourage them to copy the behaviour and “poison their beloved pet dog”.

Nick Sutton, The Kennel Club’s health and information officer, added: “We ask that Morrisons take action by no longer showing this advert and educate their customers about the potentially lethal effects of feeding Christmas pudding and other Christmas treats to their dog.”

The British Veterinary Association has described the ad as “disappointing”, while a group on Facebook called “Morrisons Christmas pudding TV ad could kill” has attracted more than 1,300 likes.

Separately the ad watchdog has also launched a formal investigation into the Morrisons TV spot that forms the bulk of the supermarket’s Christmas ad campaign.

The regulator has received 18 complaints that the ad - which features a disgruntled mother character preparing for the big day - alleging it is “offensive” and “sexist” because it reinforces “outdated” stereotypes of men and women in the home.

A Morrisons spokesman says: “Of course we’ll help the Advertising Standards Authority and we’re sorry that we’ve caused concern to some dog lovers. We would never run any advert that encouraged poor pet care and we were very careful to take veterinary advice prior to filming the advert and we ensured we had a vet present during filming.  The veterinary advice we received concluded that there would be minimal, if any, risk to a dog of serious toxic reaction should a small amount, in relation to its body weight, of Christmas cake or pudding be consumed on a one-off basis. We certainly aren’t recommending that dogs should be allowed to eat Christmas pudding. The adverts were part of a wider story and we’ll be moving to the next phase this week.”

The ASA confirmed last month it is also investigating rival Asda’s “Behind every great Christmas there’s mum” ad, which has sparked nearly 200 complaints since its launch and a social media and campaign group backlash, again around sexism and reinforcing negative gender stereotypes.

Elsewhere, Barclaycard’s Christmas ad has also sparked complaints about sexism to the advertising regulator for “encouraging gender stereotyping”, whilst Boots’ festive campaign is being investigated by the regulator after viewers objected to a child blow-drying a dog in the spot.

John Lewis was forced to re-edit its 2010 Christmas campaign after it sparked complaints for featuring a dog left out alone in the snow.

Readers' comments (12)

  • But the dog doesn't eat it!

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  • It doesn't matter the dog isn't seen eating the pudding, the implication is that it does!

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  • Very few dogs actually have problems - a bit like nut allergy - should we stop advertising anything with or may have nuts in - of course not!
    The quantities usually have to be a lot larger than the small amount of pud fed to the pooch -which wasn't eaten anyway - Perhaps the dog is brighter than some of the complainers!

    Of more concern for Morrisons is the stereotyping of men and women. It might reflect reality but suspect the portrayal annoys both men and women which may not be a good marketing message.

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  • Are you the vet that advised Morrisons "Brian M"? as the advice they got was incorrect. Not a question of if the dog was bright enough not be eat it in the ad, most dogs would eat it if offered by a child. It is our duty to protect them.

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  • Hi Brian M,

    The problem with raisins and dogs is different from an allergy, it is that they are toxic and can cause renal failure. The latest scientific advice says there is no proven link between the size of a dog and dosage, something that is not commonly known among the public, as your comment illustrates. Advice from the country's top vets and the Veterinary Poisons Information Service at Guys and St Thomas' NHS Trust is not to even risk allowing a dog to eat one raisin or grape, and if it does, to seek vet attention immediately.

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  • Whilst it all seems a little out of proportion the reaction has education value. I had absolutely no idea about the toxic issue and whilst I'm still dubious about the amounts (for those that drink alcohol, it's not good for your liver but most people cope within limits) it's certainly taught me not to give raisony tit-bits to a pooch. Also encouraged me to read up on it... every cloud.

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  • I think the ad encourages the feeding of Xmas pudding to dogs and it may just inspire more people to do so, and somehow somewhere a dog might die because of this.

    We are not talking allergy here, as already stated, but toxicity of a food in a certain animal.

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  • The advert was at best ill considered and not particularly responsible, as there is clear evidence of toxicity issues with dogs and foods containing grapes and grape related foods. Indefensible Morrisons!

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  • the BVA and the kennel club and many vetinary practices in th UK have stated their disapproval at this ad..morrisons acted irresponsibly and were badly informed ..toxicity from raisin related foods can cause death through renal failure if fed either purposely or accidentally to dogs..maybe in future morrisons will take the proper course and get their advice from the uk toxicity authority which by the way is where all good vetinary surgeons and the government get theirs..

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  • If people are upset by these adverts, the best course of action would be just to shop elsewhere. So long as profits are falling into the laps of the key figures of Morrisons, they could not care less about these adverts. I must admit, the main Xmas ad look like a Samaritans advert rather than a retail advert, and the worst thing of all is that on YouTube it has positive feedback!

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