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Iceland’s Christmas Ad Has Been Banned from TV for Being Too Political

Advertising Agency
London, UK
The film, which was originally created for Greenpeace by Mother London, explores the devastating effects of palm oil production on South East Asia’s forests
Retailer Christmas adverts have been the source of much anticipation in the weeks building up to the big day in recent years, with retailers blowing their advertising budgets to ensure their advert becomes the most talked about of the season. 

For many consumers, the first screenings of the biggest adverts now herald the start of the festive build-up, a key milestone in the Christmas calendar. 

However, this year, Iceland’s advert will not appear on TV alongside those of other leading retailers – as its anticipated advert hasn’t made it to our screens. Following a year of leading the retail industry in sustainability initiatives, Iceland had elected to do something different with its advertising spend. 

Earlier this year, Iceland committed to remove palm oil from all its own label food by the end of 2018 in response to continued deforestation in South East Asia. As the retailer nears completion of the project, offering consumers the choice of an orangutan friendly Christmas, it had planned for a Christmas advert to raise awareness.

The retailer had hoped to use the short film, Rang-Tan, as its main Christmas advert. Following Greenpeace’s release of the emotive video in August 2018, Iceland approached the organisation for permission to repurpose the animation, which highlights the catastrophic effect of palm oil production during the most anticipated advertising period of the year – Christmas.

It was hoped that the advert would improve shoppers’ understanding of the widespread rainforest destruction for palm oil production, which appears in more than 50% of all supermarket products. 

The advert would have seen Iceland committing over half a million pounds of media spend to ensure that it was seen by millions of consumers – a bold move away from the usual commercial, product-led advertising in order to highlight an important issue causing climate change and biodiversity loss. 

However, this may have proven a brave step too far as the advert was banned by advertising regulators. 

Richard Walker, managing director at Iceland, said: “Throughout 2018 we have led the retail industry to take action in areas such as rainforest destruction for palm oil and plastic pollution of our oceans. This year we were keen to do something different with our much anticipated Christmas advert. The culmination of our palm oil project is offering our customers the choice of an orangutan friendly Christmas, and we wanted to reflect this in our advertising.

“Whilst our advert sadly never made it to TV screens, we are hopeful that consumers will take to social media to view the film, which raises awareness of an important global issue. Our commitment to help protect the home of orangutans remains extremely close to our hearts. We are proud to be encouraging consumers to make more sustainable choices, even without the support of TV advertising, ahead of the Christmas shopping season.”

Iceland, the UK’s leading frozen food specialist, is offering consumers an orangutan friendly Christmas range. The range has been carefully crafted, with recipes reworked to ensure that the removal of palm oil has no effect on quality or taste. 

Iceland made the decision to demonstrate to the food and retail industries that it is possible to reduce the demand for palm oil until the industry stops destroying the rainforests by seeking alternative ingredients. Growing demand for palm oil for use in food products, cosmetics and biodiesel is devastating tropical rainforests across South East Asia. Expanding palm oil and wood pulp plantations are the biggest driver of deforestation, many species are being threatened with extinction, including the orangutan, already critically endangered.