November is when the main retailers bring out their now traditional Christmas adverts, with various themes, interactive elements and sometimes special characters who return with the same regularity as Father Christmas and Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer.
Plenty of people get red noses at this time of year due to colds, but come the summer the redness may have a different cause – one that has led to the Waitrose advert becoming rather controversial.
The original advert, which had been designed to highlight the work done by farmers in sourcing the food that ends up on supermarket shelves and subsequently on dinner plates, depicted two farmers on a summer day comparing sun tans because they spent so much time working outdoors all year round.
While this may have been well-intentioned, it drew criticism from skin cancer charity Melanoma UK and many of those who viewed it on social media, who accused the retailer of ignoring the dangers of excessive exposure to the sun in summer.
The BBC reported how one melanoma sufferer commented on the Waitrose Facebook page: “absolutely astonishing that a company like yourselves should be showing farmers glorifying in their sun tans”.
She added: “This is a kick in the teeth for all melanoma patients and for all the organisations trying to educate everyone into the dangers of sun tans.”
Melanoma UK remarked: “Waitrose can do better than this,” a view many a Sheffield cancer doctor will agree with. Its chief executive Gill Nuttall said: “The comparing of tans dates back many years, before we knew better.”
To their credit, Waitrose took on board the criticisms. It issued an apology and the advert has now been modified, with the summer scene showing the two farmers passing each other without comparing their tans.
“While we included some light-hearted and ‘true to life’ moments, we’ve listened to the comments made about the serious message of sun safety,” a spokesperson for the store told the BBC.
Having set out to highlight the work of farmers, Waitrose may instead have helped raise some awareness about the dangers of skin cancer, which 16,700 people are diagnosed with in the UK every year. If spotted soon enough it is eminently treatable, but if it is allowed enough time it can spread to other parts of the body and, according to Melanoma UK, it kills seven people every day.
The one downside of the awareness the Waitrose blunder may have had is that by coming at the time of year when the days are shortest and the sun is lowest, it is happening when even the palest-skinned Briton is at no risk of sunburn.
Melanoma UK has often raised concerns over actions taken by organisations at times of year when the risk of sunburn is high. Back in August, it criticised Manchester City Football Club for not allowing fans coming to the home game against AFC Bournemouth to bring suncream into the ground with them on a day when temperatures rose to 31 degrees C.
The club had asked fans to apply suncream before coming to the stadium and to then wear hats and drink lots of water.