A controversial Christmas commercial showing Santa Claus unconscious in hospital has been labelled “twisted” and “shameful” by critics who say it’s too sensitive for young children.
The campaign video titled ‘The gift’ highlights the hard work of UK NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic by showing hospital staff treating an elderly man with a white beard as he recovers from an illness.
Nursing staff surround the man wearing PPE as various dimly lit scenes show him recovering in an emergency ward and later struggling in a wheelchair and wearing oxygen tubes.
Towards the end of the short film, the man is seen writing a list of names and sorting through Christmas cards before he recovers and leaves the hospital with a smile.
The ad ends with a nurse receiving a gift thanking her and her colleagues for their hard work and signed ‘Santa’.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done for all of us, Santa,” a card on a small present reads.
Rather than celebrating frontline workers, some have called the ad irresponsible as young children struggle to understand the coronavirus pandemic and voiced concerns over Father Christmas visiting on December 25.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson even took to social media to reassure children Santa would be delivering gifts despite Covid-19.
Monti (aged 8) wrote to me asking if Father Christmas will be able to deliver presents this year 🎅🎁🎄
I've had lots of letters about this, so I have spoken with experts and can assure you that Father Christmas will be packing his sleigh and delivering presents this Christmas! pic.twitter.com/pXwcjHSxZg
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) November 25, 2020
“This Covid-19 obsession is getting more twisted by the day. In the UK the NHS charity Christmas advert, shows medics battling to save Santa's life,” talk show host Niall Boylan wrote on Twitter.
“Not happy terrifying adults they now want to traumatise young children with this sick scaremongering.”
TV presenter Tonia Buxton called for the ad to be removed, describing it as “shameful”.
“This utterly shameful Ad MUST be taken down immediately, how dare you mess with the mental health of of our children SHAME ON YOU,” Ms Buxton tweeted.
“Someone thought this was a good idea. Guaranteed to scare the hell out of little ones if they watch it,” a person commented on social media.
This utterly shameful Ad MUST be taken down immediately, how dare you mess with the mental health of of our children SHAME ON YOU. https://t.co/gXDb5MhpEJ
— Tonia Buxton (@ToniaBuxton) December 10, 2020
Following the criticism, NHS Charities Together have defended the message.
“We created our Christmas campaign to highlight the ongoing commitment and hard work of NHS staff and volunteers to keep us safe and well in what has been and continues to be a really challenging time for the NHS,” a media statement by the charity read.
“It isn’t aimed at children and hasn’t been shown on TV. The charity did not put any funds into the production of the ad.
“We worked closely with the team behind the ad to make sure it was produced responsibly and it was cleared for use by the relevant regulatory authority.
“However, we are sorry to the parents of any young children who have been upset by watching the ad and to the young children themselves, they were not the intended audience for it.”
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