World’s best ads ever #45: Iceland’s ‘No Palm Oil’ gets both attention and a ban
We asked our readers to vote for their favorite commercials of all time. Top creatives from the World Creative Rankings and The Drum’s Judges’ Club then ranked the ads. Now, we bring you the definitive 100 best TV and video ads of all time.
Towards the end of 2018, frozen food supermarket Iceland attempted to release a repurposed animated short from Greenpeace by Salon Alpin that focused on the impact of palm oil on the environment. Unfortunately, ad vetting body Clearcast spiked the spot for being “directed towards a political end” before it even reached TV screens.
Throughout the minute-and-a-half-long film, created by Mother London and narrated by Emma Thompson, viewers witness the destruction of the rainforest by palm oil growers through the story of a character called Rang-tan, a critically endangered orangutan whose home is being destroyed. The messaging was in line with Iceland’s commitment to remove palm oil from its own-label food by the end of 2018.
Unable to broadcast the video on traditional TV, the budget store began rallying round social media users in a bid to make the film go viral – even talk show host James Corden aired his grievances with the decision on Twitter. The YouTube post has since gone on to amass more than 6.5m views.
A petition addressed to Clearcast urged those who “believe the ban should be overturned” to sign so the ad could be on screens during the festive period.
Mark Topps, who started the petition, wrote at the time: “As a father of three who thinks this ad would help educate people about how their products are killing orangutans and their homes, I feel banning this advert is an injustice.”
Some people have suggested that Iceland knew all along that the ad might get banned and therefore receive more attention. However, the company claimed it spent around £500,000 on the campaign and had been booking “primetime” TV slots through its media agency the7stars.
Back in 2018, Richard Walker, managing director for Iceland Food group, said: “We wanted [the Greenpeace film] to be our signature campaign. We have said repeatedly we are not anti-palm oil, we are anti-deforestation.
“We think this is a huge story that needs to be told. We always knew there was a risk but we gave it our best shot.”