Unless you’ve been avoiding all things Christmas, or living under a rock, you’ll have heard claims that Sainsbury’s has ‘won the Christmas ad war’ with their collaboration with children’s author, Judith Kerr, famous for her books about calamity prone cat, Mog, for charity. But, in case you haven’t seen it, here it is:

Along with the ad Sainsbury’s is also helping to raise money for Children’s Literacy through sales of Kerr’s new Mog book ‘Mog’s Christmas Calamity’ and, for a selected time, Mog plush toys. The combination of merchandise and a strong storytelling aspect to their Christmas ad this year has made Sainsbury’s the true front runner of the Christmas ad war.

What many believe makes this ad shine though is Sainsbury’s unique approach. While the likes of John Lewis is making us bawl our eyes out with their Age UK collaboration ‘Man on the Moon,’ Sainsbury’s is taking a different approach.

They want their audience to ‘laugh not cry’ believing that Christmas is a time for joy and sharing. However, many have criticised the brand, and Kerr, for resurrecting Mog.

For those of you who don’t know, Mog was killed off back in 2002 in the book ‘Goodbye Mog’. Kerr claimed that as she herself was growing old she realised the importance of preparing children for death and wanted to teach them to ‘move on with life’ after a loved one dies.

However, by resurrecting Mog for the Sainsbury’s ad Kerr’s important lesson about coping with death has seen a u-turn.

Kerr and Sainsbury’s issued a statement claiming that the books are not written in chronological order, so ‘Mog’s Christmas Calamity’ is therefore set in a time prior to Mog’s passing.

However, this Guardian article seems to make it clear that Kerr did not intend to write more books after Mog’s death so, surely, if Mog’s passing symbolised the end to the Mog books, does this not suggest chronology? And, even if not, much like a convoluted joke, if you have to explain it then it hasn’t worked.

The most important thing about creating anything is knowing the audience it is intended for and I believe, in this instance, neither Kerr nor Sainsbury’s understood the Mog audience.

The death of Mog was heart-wrenching and poignant for fans and not something easily forgotten. So for many, to see Mog back, has been confusing and bitter-sweet, not quite the ‘laugh not cry’ reaction Sainsbury’s claim to want.

Whilst it is a nice introduction to Mog for those who have yet to be beguiled by her clumsy ways (and I can never be against anything that helps to get children reading) I do think that Sainsbury’s should have thought harder about the character they would use and Kerr should have stuck to her guns. For, if you’re going to teach children about something as important and difficult as death then you need to understand its impact and let the dead stay dead.

There are many characters just as endearing, who could have conveyed the same message, without causing such bitter-sweetness, confusion and even anger.

So, whilst I did run to stores to get my Mog book and toy, and whilst I did smile watching Mog’s return, it was a bitter-sweetness combined with a feeling of betrayal from Kerr and not, I’m afraid to say, laughter.  

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