By Jennifer Dowling
As consumers we expect to be bombarded over the Christmas period with adverts that lure us towards the ‘supposed’ joy that is brought through giving and receiving presents. We often anticipate the theatrical commercials released by the likes of John Lewis, and are very much used to the ‘feel-good feeling’ they promote.
What we are not used to is a Christmas advert that portrays a different message, one of reflection and guilt and that plays upon our feelings of empathy. Such is the case with Iceland’s new advert that draws attention to the environmental destruction caused by the palm oil industry. Its emotive and graphic imagery has been disallowed from being aired on British TV. What is the reason for this ban and is the largely factual advert really causing enough political harm to the general public to warrant its banning?
Since the outcry about the advert, a massive animatronic orangutan was set free around London to raise awareness of Iceland’s message. The ongoing support of the cause shows that actually the public is in favour of this type of political messaging.
Greenpeace originally released the advert, but Iceland then adopted it with the aim of it being released to a wider commercial audience. It also follows alongside the companies promise of eradicating palm oil from all its own branded products. Clearcast, the organisation that stopped the commercials airing, did not ban the advertisement for its content, but rather because it was seen to be in support of a political issue.
Under the Communications Act 2003, an advert can be seen to be ‘too’ political if it is ‘inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature’. As the advert was derived from Greenpeace, an organisation with strong political opinions, it is therefore considered biased.
Is the fact that the advert comes from a politically biased organisation one that condemns its banning from mainstream viewing? The advertisement itself contains strong, factual information about the disastrous effects the production of palm oil has upon the environment and arguably, it is information that should be shared.
The issue in itself is highly significant in its message, after the UN announced their report warning that we have 12 years to stop irreversible damage to our planet. The advert contains clear and focused content and addresses itself to ‘the 25 orangutans we lose every day’.
Clearcast has found the advert to go against certain advertising rules, yet what disruptive impact does this commercial show? Compare the political message shown within Iceland’s advert to that of Pepsi’s disastrous advert that featured Kendall Jenner. It caused such uproar over its lightening of significant social issues that the advert was pulled and Pepsi was forced to release an apology to the public.
Iceland’s advert has done the exact opposite and has received over 850,000 signatures on a petition to have the advert shown on TV. The advert was banned over its source rather than its content, but does its backing from Greenpeace warrant such a drastic response? The advert provides clear truths and supplies viewers with knowledge over a large social and environmental issue. Arguably this content is just, if not more important than the supposed political bias of the advert.