*That* Iceland Advert: Is your Outrage Misguided?

Matt Hurst - 13/11/2018

Let’s not pretend otherwise, Iceland’s Christmas ad was cute, but it broke broadcasting rules (and that’s why it’s so good).

Iceland’s smash-and-grab effort to capture the headlines of Christmas 2018 certainly seems to have done the trick. 

The story of ‘Rang-tan’ the Orangutan has become a widely discussed topic, ultimately down to the fact it’s been deemed ‘too political’, and as a result, won’t be hitting TV screens this Christmas. 

Since the news of the ‘ban’ spread across social media, the clip has received more than 30 million aggregated views online, celebrities have tweeted their support for the ad, and a petition protesting the ban has received hundreds of thousands of signatures. 

Incredible exposure for a piece that’s been prevented from airing on TV, but the outrage feels misguided. 

This is not an attack on free speech. The clip hasn’t been ‘banned’ as such – it’s being shared far and wide online. 

The decision not to clear the ad was made by Clearcast, a clearance body responsible for clearing ads on behalf of the four major UK commercial broadcasters. 

The reason it wasn’t cleared is because the ad isn’t Iceland’s, it’s a repurposed Greenpeace short film which first appeared in August. 

As a result, Clearcast rightly deemed it an advertisement which was “inserted on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature”. 

Some people might argue that Greenpeace isn’t political. But any institution that organises campaigns and activists, lobbies politicians, and outright calls for members to join a political lobbying network has a political agenda. 

The issue is not the content or message of the ad. The issue is the ad is based on material made by Greenpeace and has been promoted on the Greenpeace website for some time. 

If Greenpeace can demonstrate they are not a political advertiser OR if Iceland had created the ad as an original piece, the ad would run. 

But then there wouldn’t be the furore. 

The impact wouldn’t have been there, and that’s what makes it so good.  

Iceland played the game knowing they wouldn’t receive clearance. Not only that, but they chose to release it at Christmas, anticipating the Christmas market would get the most publicity. 

Someone had the vision to see the potential exposure of trying to receive clearance on a Greenpeace ad, likewise someone was bold enough to agree to trying to run it – knowing full well they likely wouldn’t receive clearance. 

They made a bold decision, and as a result they’ve generated far more exposure than running an original piece could have done. 

The ad broke broadcasting rules, but does anyone lose here?

Iceland have positioned themselves as the brand behind one of the most talked about campaigns of 2018 and the Greenpeace message to stop using palm oil from forest destroyers has received far more exposure than it did first time round. 

We should applaud the decision makers. Although there is one loser here. 

Spare a thought for the admin behind the @Clearcast Twitter account, which has become the target of misguided outrage from the Twitterati. 

Clearcast, keep those mentions on mute until January.

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