Iceland’s Christmas advert banned from TV for being too political

Ninety second animated short is a repurposed Greenpeace video

Colin Drury
Saturday 10 November 2018 08:39
Rang-tan: Iceland’s banned TV Christmas advert protests palm oil industry

It was a Christmas advert which bosses at supermarket chain Iceland said would have “blown the John Lewis ad out the window”.

But a major campaign for the discount store has been banned – after it was deemed to have breached political impartiality rules.

The animated short featured an orangutan mourning the loss of his rainforest home, and was voiced by the actress Emma Thompson. Its contention was to show how Iceland has become the first major UK supermarket to remove palm oil – a major cause of deforestation – from all its own-brand products.

However, regulators were concerned by the fact the 90-second film is actually a repurposed Greenpeace video.

“This was a film that Greenpeace made with a voiceover by Emma Thompson,” said Iceland’s founder Malcolm Walker. “We got permission to use it and take off the Greenpeace logo and use it as the Iceland Christmas ad.

“It would have blown the John Lewis ad out of the window. It was so emotional.”

Clearcast, the body responsible for vetting ads, said it was in breach of rules laid down by the 2003 Communications Act. One of the law’s stipulations is that a promotional campaign is prohibited if it is “directed towards a political end”.

“Clearcast and the broadcasters have to date been unable to clear this because we are concerned that it doesn’t comply with the political rules of the BCAP [the broadcast code for advertising practice],” said a spokeswoman. “The creative submitted to us is linked to another organisation who have not yet been able to demonstrate compliance in this area.”

Iceland said it will still be placing TV ads, but only 10-second clips that will highlight palm oil-free products.

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“We wanted [the Greenpeace film] to be our signature campaign,” said Richard Walker, Malcolm’s son, who has led Iceland’s environmental campaigning. “We have said repeatedly we are not anti-palm oil, we are anti-deforestation.”

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