Christmas adverts for many signify the introduction of the festive period and despite the middle of November being seen as too early for some, they are already being released. However, this year hasn’t been all animated bunnies and spacemen as there has been controversy over Iceland’s “orangutan in my bedroom” advert which was created by Greenpeace in order to highlight the impact of palm oil farming on the rainforests.
Many believe the advertisement was taken off TV for being too political as watchdog Clearcast stated it wasn’t approved due to breaching political advertising rules. This led to the advert going viral with an online petition which has gained over 680,000 signatures in support of allowing the advert to be shown on TV. On twitter, the advertisement has had over 15 million views, with celebrities such as Paloma Faith, James Corden and MP Michael Grove publicly stating their support for the company and its message.
However, the advert wasn’t taken down because it spoke broke rules when talking about the environment or palm oil. It wasn’t approved by Clearcast as it was originally made by the environmental organisation Greenpeace and it breached the rule of an advert being “inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature”. This would mean Greenpeace would have to display to Clearcast it wasn’t a “political advertiser” in order for the ad to be approved; something it failed to do.
The controversy continues though, as Clearcast never banned the ad as only the Advertising Standards Authority has the power to do so. The group only pointed out that if it was to be shown on television it would be breaking the broadcasting law. So, if Iceland knew how controversial the ad was before releasing it online, why did they do it? Many actually believe it was a strategic choice in order to bring publicity to the company. The advert has gained triple the views of its 2017 Christmas advert while only being released on YouTube according to the head of planning at brand agency Amplify, Krupali Cescau, who states that, “the fact that it’s been released like this, as a banned advert, is riding the sentiment that is out there at the moment” and that “the people you’ve got looking at it are now vocal advocates of a store they might never have considered before.” Iceland has denied allegations of planning an ad with the intent of getting it banned in order to create free publicity stating they had booked £500,000 of media space on TV for the campaign. Yet this is not a significant amount for a major retailer, furthering doubts.
But this isn’t the end of the marketing strategies. Iceland is due to release a life-size animatronic orangutan on the streets of the UK around its stores in order to promote its extensive range of palm-oil free products. So whether it was something they believed customers would deem important or just another ploy to generate sales, Iceland has generated all the publicity they could have hoped for and more.