Banned Iceland Ad - Rang Tan
Student/PR

This is how Iceland’s banned advert will probably be Christmas #1 this year

How they didn’t see it coming I don’t know. As I’m almost 100% sure we all did. Publicly banning a Christmas advertisement that highlighted yes a controversial, but also very topical and very serious issue was never going to do the A.S.A any favours. Not least for their reputation as an official body, but also simply because what they worked to forbid, has actually enjoyed a complete adverse reaction.

Though I can’t say I didn’t see it coming.

I don’t even have to say the name of the advertisement nor the company for you to know what I’m on about. You’d have to be a complete social hermit to have avoided it. But if you have, then the ad I’m of course talking about is the inexplicably upsetting but unfortunately true depiction of the palm oil crisis, which was highlighted by Iceland in a short cartoon ad. Which you can (and should definitely if you haven’t already) see here.


May I steal your attention for a moment…

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  • Click here.
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Thank you so very much. Now back to the blog…


The rise of Rang-Tan

The title is kind of cruel irony actually, it wasn’t intentional. What the advert painstakingly highlights is that the harvesting of palm oil – a questionably pointless product for which there are many great alternatives – is maliciously destroying the natural habitats of Orangutans and other wildlife too at an alarming and devastating rate. And it must be stopped.

Which is why I’m glad that against all odds, Iceland – who are known for being big advocates for the cause and who’ve omitted palm oil from all of their own branded products – have still managed to get their plea out there. Even more so than if the ad was simply displayed on T.V., I believe.

The YouTube video alone (which isn’t even its primary source of viewing, by the way. Most people are getting to this through social media and the news) has already got over 3.3 million views; and has even earned a comment from the verified Jesus Christ himself (???).

Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 17.13.12
I’m not sure how J.C made it to YouTube, but I’m glad he too supports the palm oil crisis cause!

In fact, one only has to type in ‘Iceland’ in Google for the search engine to suggest you go to view its advert right away. The suggested search trumps other entirely popular searches such as ‘online shopping’ and ‘near me’ with the infamous ad, highlighting its immense popularity since its iconic shunning.

Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 16.37.20.png
Out of 5 suggested searches, 2 of the top ones are related to the ‘notorious’ ad. And it’s only been out a week!

The A.S.A didn’t want this ad broadcasted to the public. For what they claim was a breach of advertising rules (Greenpeace had apparently already released it, and that makes it veto apparently, oh and it’s also ‘too political’, if you wanted the background low-down) but which was more likely rejected due to its heavy and drastic yet truthful message. Unfortunately for them, however, their ignorance has caused quite the (disadvantageous for the A.S.A) snowball effect and now, it’s been seen by pretty much everyone who so much as owns a computer or a smartphone.

Great for Iceland and Greenpeace, not so much the Advertising Standards Authority.

It’s been published on every news site, and is uploaded to the video sharing giant YouTube amongst all of the other social media platforms for the world to see too. Which, arguably, (no actually, solidly) has, and will have, more of an effect than a TV advert ever would have had on its own. I made that point before, and I’ll make it again and again. This campaign never would have done so well had it not been for the controversy surrounding it, so in a way it all worked out for the best.

I won’t call it ‘extra reading’ in fear of sounding like a lecturer or a teacher, but after you’re done with this post you really should bookmark this article from PR week too. Who also raise the question, ‘did Iceland accidentally play a PR blinder?‘.

Iceland banned TV ad coverage
Just look at that coverage. Would a regular Christmas ad earn the same visibility? I’d think not. (Unless it’s John Lewis. Maybe John Lewis…)

I think it’s truly fair to say that A.S.A played themselves. Their ban has not only prompted an opposite reaction to what their actions hoped to achieve, but has also pretty much put them in the firing line.

I mean, what kind of organisation would ban such a kind yet important advertisement that served only the purpose of raising awareness of a devastating issue? They truly do look like the bad guys – though I’m certain that wasn’t their intention, they still do.

Oh, and while we’re on it, if they couldn’t shun an advert last year that depicted a questionable elf tea-bagging a Barbie (nothing against the campaign by the way, I thought it was creative and daring and everything a good campaign should be), but could easily red cross one that worked only to encourage beneficial environmental change, then they’re not exactly, lets say: portraying themselves in the right kind of way.

Do better, A.S.A, cause’ right now all the odds are stacked against you.

So could it even be Christmas #1?

I bet John Lewis are quaking in their winter boots right now, cause’ right now it really does seem as though all the festive attention is spotlighted on Rang-Tan and his palm oil crisis. In fact, I sure hope J.L. aren’t planning on dropping their festive campaign any time soon, because it’d almost certainly be overshadowed by the drama that currently encircles the Xmas advertising world. (Note to their comms team: push it back guys).

If it went to a vote, in fact, I’d bet hands down that Iceland’s effort would win number one Christmas ad this year, largely down to the fact that it’s almost a martyr of its kind and is one of the only ads to actually raise something topical and real, yet still in an engaging and resonating way. Compassion was at the forefront of their intentions here, and I love that. And lets face it, as funny and effective as it was, Poundland’s elf on the shelf for example (sorry for baiting you out again Poundland) didn’t really have a longstanding meaningful message to it, did it?

And that’s why I’m really loving this ad (did I mention that?), for so many more ways than one. It’s daring and bold, has defied all the odds and also carries with it such a powerful message that I don’t doubt will flick a metaphorical domino to begin a chain of change in the palm oil harvesting industry. We’ve seen it with the action on plastic, and now I really do think this’ll be the next positive move for the world. And not a moment too soon, too!

So yeah, Christmas number one ad? I certainly wouldn’t be surprised. Would I even say one of the best ads of all time with all things considered? Sure, I might even go that far.

Iceland – give yourselves a well deserved pat on the back because you’ve earned it. And I truly hope that everyone does continue to tell Rang-Tan’s story the way in which it should be told.

Watch out John Lewis, there’s a new contender (and definitely an underdog) in town. And I can’t say they haven’t earned their place on the pedestal either.

You can sign Greenpeace’s palm oil petition here

Rang Tan girl from Iceland Christmas advert

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PR and lifestyle blogger jessica pardoe

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