As the nights get darker and the stress of present buying fast approaches, so too comes the usual snowstorm of controversy in the shape of Christmas campaigning.
Back in 2014, Sainsbury’s was accused of using the famous tale of the WWI Christmas Eve truce in bad taste and just last year, the glorified John Lewis ad came under fire for implying that Santa isn’t real.
But move over everyone, because for 2017 it’s Greggs who has really taken the (spiced) biscuit. At the beginning of the week, the bakery chain announced it is launching a limited edition advent calendar chock-full of Xmas treats, including the famous Festive Bake. To promote the news, however, an image was also circulated in which the Baby Jesus in the manger had been swapped for a sausage roll.
Now, it’s hard to imagine how in today’s increasingly PC world, this managed to pass through numerous internal meetings without once being flagged up or questioned. But you have to reason that it’s not the first time mistakes have been made in a whirlwind of excited Christmas cheer. Unfortunately, the media, religious groups and the Twitterati have not been quite as forgiving and the gaffe has been met with serious backlash.
The chief executive of rightwing pressure group the Freedom Association claimed the advert was “sick”, The UK Evangelical Alliance accused Greggs of “manufacturing a scandal to sell baked goods” and The Sun exclaimed “Jesus Crust” in shock. Meanwhile, on social media, irate users contested that the Three Wise Men’s role in the nativity scene was not to gift gold, frankincense and pastry.
Who would have thought that this year’s online festive debate would be whether it’s frowned upon to put a sausage roll in a nativity scene? Or, as Good Morning Britain so aptly put it: is it ever ok to replace the Saviour with a savoury?
It can’t have been an easy few days for the Greggs press office. We’ve all been there and it’s not a nice experience when a fun and creative stunt begins to crumble and flake before your very eyes. But they’ve undoubtedly handled the situation well, sticking to their guns by not withdrawing the product while issuing an immediate apology to say they were very sorry to have caused any offence and that it was entirely unintentional.
The resulting debate has seen the high street baker go viral twice in just four days, a difficult feat at any time of year but even more so during the festive period. Images of other well-known figures replaced by sausage rolls have also since begun to crop up online, and the trend doesn’t look set to slow down any time soon.
Whether Greggs’ festive stunt was piping hot or half-baked, the sausage roll scandal has got everybody talking. Perhaps it wasn’t the wurst idea after all.