Iceland Christmas Controversy

Claire Mathieson, Account Manager


Last week Clearcast refused to grant permission for Iceland to run their Christmas advert on TV in the UK. The advert was a rebadged version of a Greenpeace film featuring an orangutans’ rainforest being destroyed for the palm oil industry. Ever since the story began gathering traction, outraged headlines have appeared over the ‘shocking ban’ all over my social media newsfeeds.

Aside from Donald Trump, I can’t think of one person who wouldn’t agree that we should be doing more to protect our environment and to save endangered species such as the orangutan but…
Clearcast were right to refuse to grant the advert permission according to their code of conduct. I don’t believe for a second that anyone with the knowledge and experience in TV advertising that Iceland and their associated agencies have, thought that it would get passed. It’s a political message.



Perhaps more importantly, how cynical is this move from Iceland? Iceland are the first supermarket to have promised to remove palm oil from all of their own brand products; so arguably they have a right to talk about this. However, they are still stocking other major brands that contain palm oil and are fundamental in serious deforestation.

I’m not saying they shouldn’t be applauded for trying to do something, all movements have to start somewhere. This project has brought attention to an important and relatively unknown subject matter and that has to count for something.

But if it wasn’t all about the PR – then why didn’t they give the money to Greenpeace to promote the film themselves as a charitable donation? The answer probably lies in the original brief. I’m willing to bet it wasn’t “raise attention of deforestation” and was “make Iceland stand out at Christmas with a fraction of the budget of other players.”