Banned Iceland Christmas advert: Why was the palm oil ad banned from TV and how to sign the petition

Laura Hampson, Tom Herbert

Iceland's Christmas advert has gone viral after it was banned from TV for being "too political."

People all over social media, including TV presenter James Corden, have been praising the supermarket giant for its Christmas campaign highlighting the environmental destruction caused by producing palm oil.

Iceland is a committed enivronmental campaigner, and earlier this year announced they would be banning palm oil from their own brand products by the end of 2018.

Their reason behind the decision to campaign for an "orangutan friendly Christmas" is because of palm oil's ‘harmful environmental impact.' The production of it has devastating impacts on wildlife and tropical forests.

Forest being cleared for palm oil plantations (AFP/Getty Images)

What was Iceland’s Christmas advert?

Unlike most other retailers, Iceland planned to use their Christmas advert this year to raise awareness with its short film Rang-tan.

Rang-tan is an animation telling the story of rainforest destruction caused by palm oil production and its devastating impact on the critically endangered orangutan.

It was hoped that the advert would improve shoppers’ understanding of the widespread rainforest destruction for palm oil production, which appears in more than 50% of all supermarket products.

The advert would have seen Iceland committing over half a million pounds of media spend to ensure that it was seen by millions of consumers – a bold move away from the usual commercial, product-led advertising in order to highlight an important issue causing climate change and biodiversity loss.

It ends with: "Dedicated to the 25 orangutans we lose every day."

Richard Walker, managing director at Iceland, said: "The culmination of our palm oil project is offering our customers the choice of an orangutan friendly Christmas, and we wanted to reflect this in our advertising.

“Our commitment to help protect the home of orangutans remains extremely close to our hearts. We are proud to be encouraging consumers to make more sustainable choices, even without the support of TV advertising, ahead of the Christmas shopping season.”

Why was Iceland’s palm oil advert banned?

By law, political advertising isn't allowed on TV.

Iceland initially said the advert "may have proven a brave step too far as the advert was banned by advertising regulators", suggesting it was because of the message.

But Watchdog Clearcast says it wasn't approved because the advert was originally the brainchild of environmental organisation Greenpeace.

For the ad to be approved, Greenpeace needed to prove it wasn't a "political advertiser" - which Clearcast says it wasn't able to do.

Chris Mundy, managing director of Clearcast, said: "The case made by many of the people who have contacted us is that they feel it is wrong that the ad is considered to be political and that it makes important environmental points. However, for the reasons above, that is not the issue here."

How have people reacted to the advert?

Iceland decided to launch its campaign on social media instead, which has been hugely successful, with over 13 million views on its Facebook page alone.

However, Clearcast's banning of the ad has been called an "injustice" and sparked outrage.

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An online petition has been set up to "release Iceland's banned Christmas advert on TV".

It states: "The ad holds an important message - one that is emotional, touching and helps to spread a message about saving the environment and so must be broadcasted."

How to sign the petition to overturn the ban

The online petition on change.org has already received over 850,000 signatures. You can sign it here.