Why Iceland's 'banned' Christmas ad raises a bigger question about true consumer choice
Iceland’s Christmas ad was brave and somewhat selfless. Personally, I think it shouldn’t have been ‘banned’. Here’s why.
This year, Iceland (a British supermarket chain) attempted to flip the Christmas ad market on its head by choosing to shine a light on an issue that truly matters; unsustainable palm oil contributes to habitat loss and the endangerment of a vast array of species, and it exists in so many of our household products. Iceland was planning to air the film on TV as its Christmas ad, but this was rejected by advertising regulators on grounds of political advertising (specifically, it was deemed ‘likely to break broadcasting law’).
What has all this got to do with Christmas? Companies spend millions buying prime time slots in the lead up to Christmas; something charities will never be able to compete with. Iceland chose to put their commercial interests aside in this key selling period to help, in their own way, to save our planet.
Now it might seem like a long stretch to suggest Iceland, a commercial retail business selling frozen goods, is helping save the planet, but the reality is, the retail landscape has a tremendous influence over what goods people purchase. Iceland are trying to set an example on how to lead the way by not only removing palm oil from all its own label products, but by choosing to spend their marketing investment on raising awareness about a much bigger issue. If consumers are kept in the dark about the detrimental effect their purchasing behaviour has on the environment, then that is not true consumer choice.
Back to the issue at hand. Should the advertising regulators have rejected the ad? Well, this is a debatable issue. My personal view is no, the ad shouldn’t have been ‘banned’. To be clear, I completely respect why the regulatory body came to their decision, at the end of the day they’re just applying broadcasting law. However, I believe we have lost the ability to simply do what’s right. And what’s right, is ensuring consumers are fully aware of what’s in the products they buy on a weekly basis in supermarkets they trust, from brands they trust. They have the right to understand the effect these ingredients have on the environment. Without this they simply cannot truly make informed decisions. If anything, we should be seeing more of this kind of retailer advertising on mass media channels.
So, bravo Iceland for attempting a much needed Christmas (air time) miracle.
Here’s the Iceland ad that was adapted from a film originally created by Greenpeace (hence the rejection). And yes, the wonderful Emma Thompson is the voice.