The Christmas Ad Banished from our Screens: Iceland’s Banned Ad goes Viral on Social Media

With Christmas fast approaching, retailer festive campaigns have been released in the dozens. John Lewis, Coca Cola and Sainsbury’s are among the most frequently commended. But this year, many argue Iceland takes the trophy, despite its perhaps undue banishment from our screens.

A short animation titled ‘Rang-Tan’, Iceland’s advert depicts the destruction of the indigenous habitat of the orangutan, a consequence of mass palm oil production. Inherently unsustainable, the production of plant-based oil has led to widespread deforestation, habitat degradation and the disruption of biodiversity and ecosystems, particularly impacting the orangutan and its ability to survive.  

Banned by Clearcast, the organisation responsible for vetting ads before they are broadcast to the public, the body claimed the advert breached the Communications Act (2003) on the grounds it propagated a political message. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which has the authority to rule of Clearcast’s decisions, has said it has ‘no role’ in the case.

A move which has garnered widespread criticism, the decision has promoted a petition to have the ad reinstated signed by almost 700, 000 individuals. Further illuminating the increasingly powerful collectivised force of social media, the ordeal has raised further questions surrounding the organisation’s jurisdiction and free speech.

But what a difference an ocean makes. Across the pond, Nike most recent advertising ‘Just Do It’ campaign in partnership with Colin Kaepernick, an American footballer who refused to kneel for the national anthem in protest of racial injustice has been hailed ‘courageous’ , ‘socially relevant’, and a ‘calculated risk on the right side of history’, despite alienating a significant proportion of their customer base. But the advert was fundamentally political in its nature, as illustrated by Donald Trump’s comment: ‘What was Nike thinking?’. Yet despite the President’s intervention and Kaepernick’s political influence, the advert was not banned.

But in the age of Generation Z – history’s most technology proficient – does this all even matter anymore? Does social media trump TV in terms of advertising value? Perhaps the Nike and Iceland campaigns have illustrated just this.

By publicising the advert on YouTube and Twitter, the company took a strategic risk. But with 15 million views on Twitter, a platform with 61% of its users forming the socially active Millennial/Generation Z demographic, Rang-Tan went viral anyway.


By Emily Moggridge

PR Account Executive