Iceland’s Banned Christmas Advert Backfires Reaching Millions
Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson
Iceland’s Christmas campaign has been banned from TV because it has been deemed to breach political advertising rules.
As part of its festive campaign, the supermarket teamed up with Greenpeace to rebadge an animated short film featuring an orangutan.
Grow Talk recently wrote about the power of brands taking a stand and Iceland have undoubtedly made a huge stand with their anti-deforestation campaign. Earlier this year, Iceland became the first major UK supermarket to pledge to remove palm oil from its own brand foods. Due to habitat losses in countries that produce palm oil, the orangutan is now being classified as critically endangered.
The banned advert features a cartoon orangutan who has taken over a little girl’s bedroom. The girl, voiced by Emma Thompson, doesn’t want the orangutan there destroying her things and asks him to leave. Before doing so, she asks him why he was there and the video cuts to show the “human in my rainforest”, destroying his home and killing his mother for the little girl’s “shampoo” and food.
Clearcast, the body responsible for vetting ads before they are broadcast to the public, said it was in breach of rules banning political advertising laid down by the 2003 Communications Act. On 9th November, they prevented the advert from being widely released due to political reasons.
Richard Walker, son of Iceland’s founder Malcolm, and responsible for Iceland’s switch to environmental campaigning said:
“We wanted [the Greenpeace film] to be our signature campaign. We have said repeatedly we are not anti-palm oil, we are anti-deforestation.
“We think this is a huge story that needs to be told. We always knew there was a risk [the clip would not be cleared for TV] but we gave it our best shot.” (The Guardian)
The Walkers need not be so down-hearted as banning the advert from television seems to have had the opposite effect desired by Clearcast. News quickly spread that the advert in question had been banned and deemed “too political”, causing thousands to Google and share the ad across social media.
As with all things in life, being told you can’t do or watch something makes it inherently more desirable and this has certainly been the case for Iceland’s Christmas advert. Since launching the video on social media, as this is regulated differently to television, Iceland has received a huge response including a petition to bring the advert to TV screens. Over 645 000 signatures have been recorded so far.
In addition, the advert has received over three and a half million views on YouTube, with that number continuing to rise, and has had media attention from UK outlets The Guardian and The Canary, as well as The NY Times. Social media attention has been off the charts, with over 14 million people viewing the advert on James Corden’s Twitter feed alone. In the words of the Guardian’s media editor, it has become “the most successful banned advert in years” (The Canary).
The power of social media has once again been demonstrated, but moreover it is the power of people’s voices that has come through loud and clear. Whether or not the advert is too political, whether or not palm oil should be banned from further supermarkets, people in their millions have chosen to view and share the video, refusing to allow their voices to be censored.