ICELAND: was banning ‘that’ advert the best thing for it?

It’s that time of the year, with pumpkins burnt out the Christmas cheer has begun, in November. Don’t even get me started on Christmas…in NOVEMBER. But, *deep breath* that isn’t what this article is about.

Our major retailers battle it out for the best Christmas advert each year, one that tugs on the public’s heart strings while those on a purses loosen.

This year it seems we already have a clear winner as Iceland released their seasonal ad, topically following last month’s UN report warning that we have 12 years to stop irreversible damage to the Earth.

The animated short film featured a playful orangutan mourning the loss of his home – the rain-forest. Voiced by Emma Thompson the contention was to announce that Iceland has become the first major UK supermarket to remove palm oil from all of its own-brand products.

Iceland seized the opportunity to raise awareness and politically educate the public all while increasing sales in time for Christmas. But, nearly one month to the day since the UN warning was released, the new advert has been banned for being too political. Apparently, saving the planet is too political. 

Image courtesy of: Flick.

Palm oil is one of the most unsustainable products on the high-street and contributes to habitat loss and the endangerment of species such as: elephants, rhinos and of-course, orangutans.

The banning by Clearcast has been widely criticised, they approve ads on behalf of broadcasters including Sky, Channel 4 and ITV.

Clearcast said it couldn’t clear the Iceland ad as it breaches the rules of the Broadcast Code of Advertising Practise. The Advertising Standards Authority, which has the power to pass judgement on Clearcast’s decisions has decided to not act on the ban of the ad, claiming they have “no rule” in this case. 

However, the regulatory body seemingly no longer hold the power as LADBible reported the start of a petition driven by social media to get the ad on our screens in time for Christmas. Social media is a powerful tool that everyone from the millennial’s to high profile celebrities intend to use and implement.

Though the ad is off our TV screens it is now trending across all social media outlets. Rather than protecting the public from strong political messages being forced upon them Clearcast have instead prevented and stolen the crucial message being broadcast to millions of viewers. Many of which buy products containing palm oil without realising the devastation they’re feeding all while starving orangutans.

The Guardian reported: “Protecting and restoring forests would achieve 18% of the emissions mitigation needed by 2030 to avoid irreversible climate change, a group of 40 scientists said last month.”

Iceland’s Christmas campaign was second in command leading the way towards a movement, only following the statistics revealing the devastation that lies ahead if we do not take action now. Iceland will be the first major supermarket to stop using palm oil as an ingredient in all its own label products by the end of 2018.

However, Iceland did not take the banning lying down. Instead they’ve uploaded the ad to YouTube. 

Iceland’s managing director, Richard Walker, says its Christmas ad was the retailer’s “first chance to prove we can put commercial interests to the side in order to make the changes required to save our planet in the aftermath of the landmark UN report”. But, he says, it failed.

Iceland may be the first of a retail led attempt to save the planet, as it will take every shop, household and person to make the changes the world so desperately needs and what the public want.

Each year John Lewis has been the one to beat, but, maybe Iceland has changed the game. Arguably, without the ban the message wouldn’t have been so strong and has only driven the public towards sharing, streaming and actually listening to the ad.

2 thoughts on “ICELAND: was banning ‘that’ advert the best thing for it?

  1. So pleased to read this Charlie, you know how much I love Orang-utans. I loved the advert when I saw it, I really don’t know why it was deemed unacceptable. I have looked at it on-line numerous times & will now be shopping at Iceland to show my support, they should be applauded for the message it gives. Since a visit to Borneo in 2011 I have not bought any products which have palm oil listed as an ingredient. I was shocked on seeing the devastation first hand caused to the rainforest by acres & acres of palm oil plantations as far as you could see. The loss of habitat for the Orang-utan’s is unacceptable, but equally the way they are removed from the landscape needs addressing also. Keep up the good work


    1. I’m so pleased you enjoyed reading this Sue, so much so that you’ve then commented too! I should’ve clicked you be a big fan and send you the link!
      The advert is fantastic, a truly moving piece – evident by the reaction from the public! Even though a petition to get the advert on our screens has over half a million signatures it just won’t be possible to get it back on TV as it breaks the regulations. Many are even suggesting Iceland’s director purposefully broke the rules for some free publicity. Either way, I am in full support of the advert and the change it will definitely bring, many people (including myself) will now be checking labels for palm oil! Iceland’s own brand have already removed palm oil and hopefully other large chains will follow. This advert has definitely won Christmas in my eyes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s