Iceland and Greenpeace’s ‘banned from TV’ Christmas creative, which explored palm oil farming's role in global deforestation gained extensive publicity on the basis of a "misunderstanding", according to Chris Mundy, managing director of Clearcast.
Following an outpouring of criticism online, Mundy has defended the decision to block the ad from screens saying it was a "matter of broadcasting law". He cited Greenpeace's involvement as the barrier to broadcast for Iceland, rather than the content of the ad itself.
Clearcast, the UK body which approves ads for TV broadcast we well as offering additional consultancy and guidance products to agencies, prevented Iceland from running the creative developed several months ago by Greenpeace on political grounds.
The 90-second animation, narrated by Emma Thompson, was a repurposed piece of Greenpeace creative that told the story of Rang-tan, a young orangutan who found herself homeless. The animal is shown in the spot explaining to a little girl how her habitat has been gradually destroyed by the deforestation caused by palm oil production.
The budget grocer decided to adopt the animation for its own to highlight its decision to end the use of palm oil in Iceland-branded products.
Mundy said: "We understand what an important issue the ad raised and there has been a lot of resulting publicity, discussion on social media and a campaign to get the 'ban' reversed.
"Much of what has been said has been based on a misunderstanding of the issue and we’ve seen a number of conspiracy theories about why the ad was not cleared. The truth is that it is a matter of broadcasting law."
The stumbling point, said Mundy, was that the film was originally created by Greenpeace. Iceland's TV offering was spiked because it was deemed to be "an advertisement inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature".
Mundy explained that for Iceland to overcome the ruling, "Greenpeace needs to demonstrate it is not a political advertiser."
Writing on Clearcast's blog, Mundy looked to address some of the confusion and vitriol around the Clearcast’s role in a supposed ban of the evocative, social good ad.
He said: "We understand what an important issue the ad raised and there has been a lot of resulting publicity, discussion on social media and a campaign to get the 'ban' reversed.
Mundy also corrected the idea that it was the content of the ad that was a point of contention.
"The concerns of Clearcast and the broadcasters do not extend to the content or message of the ad, i.e. Clearcast does not consider the ad itself to be political.
"Unfortunately, much reporting of the story has wrongly suggested that this is the issue which has caused understandable confusion. The case made by many of the people that have contacted us is that they feel it is wrong that the ad is considered political and that it makes important environmental points."
As a result, Iceland was instructed it had to rework the “overtly political” TV ad.
Marketers and agencies are required to have an in-depth understanding of the BCAP code. The fact the campaign was prohibited opened up claims that the 'ban' was actually a stunt orchestrated by Iceland to anoint attention upon palm oil issue.
However, Iceland claimed that it had already spent around £500,000 on the campaign having booked "primetime" TV slots through its media agency the7stars before receiving the news, hinting at an initial intention to sincerely run the work on TV.
Since the controversy, however, the brand has raised awareness of the issue and used it to mobilise the public; evoking criticism of the TV advertising code in doing so.
The Drum spoke to Iceland’s marketing director Neil Hayes to explore how the brand made the most of the ban, a project Hayes dubbed 'Plan B'. He said: “We received its decision very recently which has left us in the position where we had to change our media plan.”
A petition has been launched get the ad on TV reaching hundreds of thousands of signatures. Clearcast outlined that the work was free to run online and on Video On Demand (VOD) services. On YouTube, it has accumulated 3.2m views. On Facebook, it had hit 12m views at the time of writing.
Mundy outlined Clearcast’s role in the advertising ecosystem.
“It is important to note that Clearcast doesn’t ban ads as it isn’t a regulator; that is the job of the ASA and, in the case of political ads, Ofcom. We work with advertisers to get ads on air and make sure they satisfy the rules. This protects consumers, advertisers and broadcasters.”
Watch the ad in question below.