Has Iceland already won the battle of the Christmas ads?

By Helen Lang

While most of us were sat around patiently waiting for John Lewis to release their eagerly anticipated Christmas advert, Iceland somehow swooped in and turned our attention elsewhere, without even getting their ad on the TV.

Since the initial announcement in August, the frozen food giant has gained significant praise for its commitment to being a palm oil-free retailer. Its Christmas advert serves to educate viewers on the negative environmental impacts of palm oil and the importance of reducing our usage as soon as possible.

The advert is centred around the little orangutan, Rang-Tan, who is on the loose in a young girl’s bedroom, throwing away her chocolate and screaming at her shampoo. The advert is a sobering injection of reality during a time that is so often focused around greed and consumerism.

However, the advert has been banned by Clearcast, a non-governmental organisation which pre-approves most British television advertising, for being ‘too political’. Consequently, it won’t be winging its way to the small screens to capture the eyes (or should that read hearts?) of the population this festive season.

Iceland appear unfazed by the banning of its advert and have remained intent on spreading its all-important message about palm oil by posting it all over social media. Its Facebook post reads: “You won’t see our Christmas advert on TV this year, because it was banned. But we want to share Rang-tan’s story with you this Christmas. 🎄 🐒 Will you help us tell the story?”

Since sharing the video, it has had 13 million views on Facebook alone, countless shares across all platforms, as well as numerous positive comments suggesting that Iceland has won itself a lot of new customers. The ad has even led to a petition which already has over 700,000 signatures calling for the display of the advert on TV.

The story of Rang-Tan (which, it is revealed at the end of the video, is dedicated to the 25 orangutans we lose every day) highlights important environmental issues which would ordinarily be pushed to one side at this time of year.

From a PR perspective, it would be fair to argue that the ad has sparked considerably more interest thanks to the controversy attached to it. Not only does Iceland’s HQ not have to pay the huge fees for prime-time advertising spots on national telly, but it has also achieved the main aim of the video: raising awareness of palm oil consumption.

So, major kudos to Iceland for highlighting an important issue in such a sensitive and accessible way and for not backing down in the face of adversity, and even more so for doing it at a time when we all need a little reminder of the important things in life.