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Iceland Christmas advert: Watchdog receives 'storm of abuse’ after banning orangutan film

The company had to close its Facebook page and remove staff pictures from its website

Sarah Young
Tuesday 20 November 2018 09:28 GMT
Rang-tan: Iceland’s banned TV Christmas advert protests palm oil industry

The organisation that refused to approve Iceland's Christmas advert for TV has received a “storm of abuse”, it’s managing director has said.

Clearcast, which offers guidance on clearing adverts for UK TV and radio, has been forced to close its Facebook page, shut down its switchboard and remove staff pictures from its website after people began circulating them on social media.

Chris Mundy, managing director of Clearcast, said the reaction to their decision not to clear the 90-second animated commercial, which highlighted the retailer’s decision to remove palm oil from products, had caused staff to feel “threatened”.

The company’s decision caused an uproar with almost one million people, including celebrities like James Corden and Bill Bailey, signing a petition calling for the advert to be aired.

Clearcast said it received more than 3,500 emails, 3,000 tweets and hundreds of phone calls, adding that it was “unprepared for the deluge of contact”.

“Unfortunately, this included a substantial amount of abuse and resulted in the team feeling threatened”, Mundy wrote in a blog post.

“We had to close our switchboard and subsequently took pictures of our team off the website (they had been circulating on Twitter)”.

He added that the organisation’s initial response to the furore, which claimed the ad was “too political” wasn’t as clear as it could have been.

“The inaccurate statement that the ad was itself political dominated the headlines, causing confusion and anger,” Mundy explained.

“On the following Monday, we started responding clearly and openly. This didn’t necessarily swing the opinions of those who didn’t believe our explanation, or thought that we should ignore the rules; however, it did begin to clarify the position for others.”

Instead, Clearcast says that the reason for not approving the advert was due to its relationship with Greenpeace, not its content.

“As the broadcasters had decided they could not run the ad under the law, Clearcast had in practice no power to reverse the decision at all,” Mundy said.

Greenpeace’s involvement in the project meant that Iceland’s ad contravened the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising’s BCAP Code because it is a collaboration with an environmental activist group.

The law states: “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 is intended to shield consumers from being exposed to political messages that are not clearly demarcated as such, which, in the opinion of Clearcast, is the case with Iceland's Christmas advert.

Mundy concluded the blog post by saying that his team had become “collateral damage in getting the message out” but that the reaction meant the “winner has been the environmental message that has been widely shared”.

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