Iceland Christmas advert 'ban' a 'misunderstanding', says advisory body

Clearcast says supermarket's collaboration with Greenpeace violates BCAP Code but anti-palm oil message itself not at fault

Joe Sommerlad
Wednesday 14 November 2018 21:47 GMT
Rang-tan: Iceland’s banned TV Christmas advert protests palm oil industry

The outcry over the Iceland Christmas advert that was apparently banned is based on a “misunderstanding”, advertising industry advisory body Clearcast has said.

The 90-second animated commercial produced in partnership with Greenpeace, is narrated by actress Emma Thompson and features a cartoon orangutan who has fled the destruction of the rainforest to hide in a little girl’s bedroom.

The critique of palm oil production was ruled “too political” by the body which is responsible for pre-approving TV adverts before broadcast.

But the verdict that was met with uproar on social media and an online petition attracted almost 700,000 signatures and the endorsement of celebrities including James Corden and Bill Bailey.

Pointing out that it is not a regulatory body, it said that it does not have the authority to prohibit the advert being broadcast.

The responsibility for issuing a ban would fall to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), acting on behalf of Ofcom.

Clearcast merely offers guidance to advertisers to ensure their promotions comply with existing regulations as established in accordance with the 2003 Communications Act.

However, as far as the supermarket is concerned, the advice would likely match that of the ASA and therefore effectively serving as advanced notice the ad would not be approved for television broadcast.

“We understand what an important issue the ad raised and there has been a lot of resulting publicity, discussion on social media and a campaign to get the ‘ban’ reversed”, Clearcast managing director Chris Mundy wrote on the organisation’s blog. “Much of what has been said has been based on a misunderstanding of the issue and we’ve seen a number of conspiracy theories about why the ad was not cleared. The truth is that it is a matter of broadcasting law.”

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Mr Mundy explained thjat Greenpeace’s involvement in the project is the problem, in that Iceland’s ad contravenes the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising’s BCAP Code because it is a collaboration with an environmental activist group that is purely political in nature.

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 is the case with Iceland's Christmas advert in the opinion of Clearcast.

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