M&S apologises for Christmas ad outtake that sparked outrage

Accusations of disrespecting Palestinian flag

Marks & Spencer, a leading British retailer, has faced backlash from some social media users who accused the company of disrespecting the Palestinian flag in an outtake from its Christmas advert. The image, which was posted on the brand’s official Instagram account, showed red, green, and silver paper hats thrown into a fire, with a caption that suggested some people do not like wearing them during the festive season. However, some people saw a resemblance between the paper hats and the colours of the Palestinian flag, which has become a symbol of resistance and solidarity amid the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza.

Apology and deletion of the post

M&S quickly deleted the post after receiving negative feedback and issued an apology on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday. The company said that the image was an outtake from its Christmas Clothing and Home advert, which was recorded in August, and that it had no intention of causing any hurt. The company also explained that the paper hats were traditional festive colours and that the post was meant to be playful and humorous.

ms christmas ad outtake controversy

Star-studded Christmas campaign

The controversial image was part of a wider campaign by M&S to kick off the festive ad season and encourage people to shun the endless chores of Christmas and focus on enjoying themselves. The campaign features a line-up of famous faces, including singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Marvel actress Zawe Ashton, Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham, and Queer Eye’s style expert Tan France. The campaign’s message for its shoppers is to put themselves first and do what they love this Christmas.

Reaction and response from social media users

The reaction from social media users was mixed, with some expressing outrage and disappointment at M&S, while others defending the company and dismissing the accusations as absurd and far-fetched. Some users also pointed out that the colours of the paper hats were not exactly the same as the Palestinian flag, which also has a black stripe and a white star. Some users also questioned the timing and relevance of the post, given the current situation in the Middle East, where more than 1,400 Israelis and 8,700 Palestinians have died since Hamas militants launched a surprise terror attack on Israel on October 7.

Future implications and challenges for M&S

The incident has raised questions about the sensitivity and responsibility of M&S as a global brand and a corporate citizen. The company has a history of supporting various social and environmental causes, such as fair trade, animal welfare, and diversity and inclusion. However, the company has also faced criticism and controversy in the past, such as when it was accused of boycotting Israeli products in 2000, or when it was sued by Interflora for trademark infringement in 2013. The company may have to rethink its marketing strategy and communication approach in order to avoid further backlash and damage to its reputation and customer loyalty.

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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