It’s a simple Christmas message of the sort one sees all over the place this time of year; a dog frolics in the freshly fallen snow while an older couple laugh together over steaming hot chocolate. Elsewhere, a family builds a snowman together in their front yard while skaters dance on the surface of a frozen lake. These simple symbols of holiday joy are all a part of a video put together for the Carrefour de L’Estrie shopping mall’s pre-Christmas advertizing but the ad, however innocent seeming in its description, has been stirring up trouble for the mall since it started to run online and on television because of its soundtrack.
Though the video ends with a French message inviting viewers to “come live the holiday magic” at the mall, the minute-long chain of holiday images is played alongside a song written and performed in English by Magog artist Rose Adam. That song, according to Carrefour Marketing Director Sophie Breault, is at the heart of the criticism.
“We were surprised at the reaction,” Breault. “I never expected it to go this far.”
The Marketing Director said that the song was commissioned for the ad based on past experience working with Adam and the fact that none of the music the marketing department had easy access to was appealing.
“Usually it’s easy for us to buy cheap songs on different banks, but we didn’t like any of them,” Breault said, pointing out that the Carrefour simply does not have the budget to use tracks by more well known artists in its campaigns. Putting a focus on supporting the arts on a local level, the marketing director said that the mall turned to Adam and liked what they got. “When we heard the song, there were four or five members of the group, we loved it.”
Upon releasing the advertisement online and on TVA, however, the mall got between 10 and 15 different complaints about the use of an English song.
“Some of them physically came to the mall to complain,” Breault recalled. “We didn’t want to make anyone feel bad about it so we decided to change it for an instrumental song.”
The Marketing director said that the backlash was surprising to her and her team because this is not the first time that the mall has used an English song in their ads. Although she said she did not specifically commission a song with lyrics, English or otherwise, she stands by the decision to support a local artist.
A new, instrumental-only version of the advertisement is now running on TVA but both versions are available on the website. Breault explained that even in the new version of the ad, the music is still being performed by Adam. Despite that compromise, however, the marketing director said that the mall is now getting criticism in the opposite direction.
“Right now the problem is that there are Francophones and Anglophones who are mad because we changed the version,” Breault said. “I’ve received a lot of complaints because we decided to use an instrumental version.”
For her part, Adam said that the song was just a job for her and she does not feel hurt by the change.
“Honestly, I wrote the song on short notice for the commercial without thinking it would matter if it was in English,” the musician told The Record. “I have always related more to lyrics in English only because I find it easier to deliver the message.
Adam said that she feels music is not supposed to be complicated or controversial, but more about personal feelings.
“I don’t really mind the decision of the Carrefour,” the musician explained. “I know those people personally and I know they care about their customers so I understand and agree with the choice they made.”