The “War” Season: Annual Concern over Christmas Advertising

The annual debate of whether or not Christmas appears in a company’s advertising has arrived.  The name for this event:  “The War on Christmas.”  Oddly if you go back a few years you find people complaining about the over-commercialization of Christmas by companies.  So you may not win whatever side you are on.  The War is based on advertising not using Christmas but instead a more generic term like the happy holidays or season’s greetings.  War advocates maintain this is political correctness and is deemed an attack on the faith.  Others feel the more generic terms are more inclusive in a society that is increasing diverse and not everyone is Christian. 

The American Family Association (AFA) leads the charge in the War on Christmas.  The AFA is a Christian based group looking to promote family values—as they define them.  They are very active in using public relations to support their position, which is their right in the US.  Visit their web site if want to see how effectively activist groups can use public relations.  Whether or not you agree with their views, their public relations works is very good. 

Here is how the AFA explains their annual rating of companies in relation to the War on Christmas. 

Based on current advertising, below is a list of companies that avoid, ban, or use the term “Christmas” in their advertising.  We will continually update the list, so check back often.

Criteria – AFA reviewed up to four areas to determine if a company was “Christmas-friendly” in their advertising: print media (newspaper inserts), broadcast media (radio/television), website and/or personal visits to the store. If a company’s ad has references to items associated with Christmas (trees, wreaths, lights, etc.), it was considered as an attempt to reach “Christmas” shoppers.

If a company has items associated with Christmas, but did not use the word “Christmas,” then the company is considered as censoring “Christmas.”

It is clever how they create and code the list.  Here are the lists for the three categories:

Companies FOR “Christmas”
Bass Pro Shops
Bed Bath & Beyond
Best Buy
Big Lots
Collective Brands
Dick’s Sporting Goods
Family Dollar
Dollar General
H.E.B. Stores
Harris Teeter Stores
Hobby Lobby
JC Penney
JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts Stores
Michael’s Stores
Neiman Marcus
Office Max
Pier One Imports
Rite Aid
Scheels Sporting Goods
Super D Drug Stores
Toys R Us
Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club

Companies marginalizing “Christmas” 

Bath & Body Works
Dollar Tree
Hy-Vee Stores
Old Navy
Limited Brands
Whole Foods 

Companies against “Christmas” 

Banana Republic (NEW!)
Barnes & Noble
CVS Pharmacy
Gap Stores (NEW!)
Hancock Fabrics
Office Depot
Radio Shack
Victoria’s Secret

But the AFA sees danger in War.  Here is a statement at the end of the list “If you hear of instances of hostility toward Christmas expression, please let us know. AFA is working with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) to provide resources for government and public school authorities laboring under the misimpression they must censor Christmas. You can contact ADF at (1-800-TELL-ADF ) for a copy of their legal analysis and memo on rights of seasonal expression at Christmas. We want to inform public officials about the law, and then encourage them to take a stand for Christmas.”  

Questions to Consider

1. Why do you think the “War on Christmas” gets so much attention each year?

 2. What is the risk to an organization for appearing on the marginalized or against Christmas lists?

 3. If management asked for your ideas on using Christmas or not in advertising, what would you recommend and why?

 4. What is the difference between being viewed as not using Christmas in advertising and being against or censoring Christmas?

 5.  How does the AFA use public relations to promote its view of the “War on Christmas?”

 6. How important is the Internet for promoting the “War on Christmas?”


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