Iceland's palm oil ad goes viral after 'ban'

Still from Rang-tan/Iceland Christmas ad

You may have heard that Iceland's Christmas advert has been 'banned' by advertising regulators for being 'too political' – probably because the video has now gone viral online.

The ad is actually a rebranding of a campaign video released by Greenpeace in August. Narrated by Emma Thompson, Rang-tan – The Story of Dirty Palm Oil makes its point clearly yet emotionally: the production of palm oil is destroying orangutans' natural habitat yet we find the substance everywhere.

Back in April, Iceland made the unprecedented move of announcing the removal of palm oil from all of its own-brand products.

Richard Walker, Iceland's Managing Director, explained why: "Until Iceland can guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction, we are simply saying 'no to palm oil'.

"We don't believe there is such a thing as 'sustainable' palm oil available to retailers, so we are giving consumers a choice about what they buy."

Therefore, the partnership between Greenpeace and Iceland to use the Rang-tan film as a Christmas message seems ideal – if unusual, given the warm 'n' fuzzy offerings released by Iceland's competitors – but the people who make the decisions about advertising disagreed.

Clearcast, the organisation that OKs advertising for broadcast, says the Iceland ad didn't receive clearance for TV broadcast because it contravened rules on political advertising that reflect the Communications Act. This is all to do with Greenpeace showing it first.

Clearcast says: "In the case of the Iceland ad, the specific rule Clearcast and the broadcasters have considered is: 'An advertisement contravenes the prohibition on political advertising if it is: An advertisement which is inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature'."

It clarifies: "In the case of this ad, Greenpeace have not yet demonstrated to Clearcast or the broadcasters that they are not a political advertiser under the definition of the rules."

However, Clearcast also states: "Whilst the ad is not cleared for television, it is free to run on non-broadcast platforms including VoD."

And you bet it is: the video is racking up millions of views.

Iceland's MD Richard Walker has this to say: "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."

And here it is.

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