Iceland X Greenpeace: The Controversial Christmas Campaign

Chrissie Waites
Dec 01, 2018

On the first day of Christmas, iThinkMedia gave to me a politically controversial campaign… From a cartoon Christmas advert to a lifesize animatronic Orangutan, Christina, our Content Executive, takes a look at one of the most talked about Christmas campaigns this year. 

You must have heard about the Iceland Christmas advert that caused controversy this year. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, the ad was made in association with Greenpeace and told the story of Rang-tan, a baby Orangutan. Rang-tan’s home had been destroyed due to the deforestation caused by companies clearing the rainforest to make way for palm oil production.

The ad was banned from being shown on TV due to the fact that Greenpeace as an organisation is “too political”, and political advertising is not allowed by law. However, the powerful tearjerker of an ad has since been released on the supermarket’s YouTube channel and, at the time of writing, it has 5,419,214 views. Celebrities like James Corden even helped to get the advert out there on social media, with his tweet currently sitting at 227k retweets and 439k likes, and the video he used racking up 18.3M views. 

James Cordons' response to the campaign

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There was public outrage that the ad had been banned, which led to the ClearCast body who made the decision to reject the ad, facing a storm of abuse. This resulted in them having to close their switchboard, shut down their Facebook page and even remove staff photos from their website. There’s even a petition online called “Release Iceland’s banned Christmas advert on TV #NoPalmOilChristmas” that has 1,011,654 signatures (at time of writing) and counting.

This has obviously got Iceland a great deal of exposure and recognition this year, perhaps even more so because the advert was banned. It means that Iceland has been able to compete with the likes of John Lewis and Sainsbury’s, where previously they wouldn’t even have been seen as a contender.

After the advert was rejected for TV release, Iceland also sent a life-sized animatronic Orangutan out onto the streets of London to promote their campaign. This was to demonstrate how the animals are displaced after their homes are destroyed, with many of them unable to survive.

Animatronic Orangutan Iceland campaign

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All in all, this campaign has undoubtedly gained Iceland a huge amount of attention. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was a PR stunt. Yes, they must have known that there was a chance the ad wouldn’t be given the green light, and yes, they must have known it would make waves, but it doesn’t seem like pure opportunism for their own gains.

Iceland has shown that they are committed to their stance on environmental issues on several occasions. They have a long-standing relationship with Greenpeace, and earlier this year they became the first supermarket to commit to the elimination of plastic from their own-brand products.

Alongside the Rang-tan campaign, they’ve pledged to remove palm oil from their own-brand products by 2019. Also, Iceland has brought out cuddly Rang-tan toys, with the profits supporting a charity that rescues and rehabilitates orphaned baby Orangutans.

The number of positive responses to this campaign shows that people seem to be pleased that big brands like Iceland are taking a stand and spreading the word about important issues such as deforestation and the impact of plastics on the environment.

What do you think? Will we see more brands taking a stand like this in 2019? If you haven’t already watched the Iceland Christmas advert, take a look and let us know your thoughts. 

Connect with me on LinkedIn or tweet @iThinkMediaUK and let me know what you think. In the meantime, Merry Christmas folks!

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