Iceland, the UK Supermarket chain is thrilled that its ad got banned. Here’s why

The banned ad, which has been dropped from broadcast TV for being too 'political' in its messaging, talks about the damage to forests from palm oil cultivation, as told by an orangutan

Here’s a corporate that seems wedded to the idea of sustainability. Iceland, a Wales based supermarket chain in the UK, has just seen its Christmas ad banned in the UK, due to its so called ‘political’ content. The ads message? That rainforest destruction is causing widespread damage to flora and fauna, and we need to consider more sustainable methods to harvest ‘critical’ inputs like palm oil for our processed foods industry.  Check out the ad for yourself here:


The ad has been created by Mother, an Independent creative agency. Not surprising perhaps, considering the many conflicts of interest global agency groups would face from their food industry clients possibly.

Ever since the ad got ‘banned’ by Clearcast, the UK body for TV ads broadcast , it  prevented Iceland from running the  ad because of the involvement of Greenpeace.

The 90-second animated ad, narrated by Emma Thompson, was a rework of a previous creative from Greenpeace about  Rang-tan, a young orangutan who found herself homeless, and ends up at a girl’s house. Where RangTan explains just why she is at the girl’s place, and not the forest, because ‘there is a man in the forest’.

For Iceland, a food chain with less than 3% market share in the UK, the ban has been a very good idea, going by the publicity and interest it has generated in the ad and the chain itself.  Thus, even as Youtube views itself have crossed well over 4 million  views, total viewings across social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter have crossed 35 million by our estimates.  Not to mention the many celebrity accounts that shared the ad. Not just that, a an online petition to show the ad on TV has crossed 700,000 signatures.

For the Iceland chain, the interest is a welcome opportunity to showcase its other sustainability moves, be it its decision to become the first supermarket to cut palm oil use from its own branded foods, or its 5 year plan to cut plastic from all its own own branded foods. Own branded foods or products in general, are generally much more profitable for sellers, demonstrating the business sense in the move too. Of course, with organised retail  having a very large share of the total market in the UK, making it easier for chains to influence manufacturing firms.

Let’s hope the Iceland moves will send a message out to firms on just what their customers actually want. Watch out for our stories on what Indian retailers are planning to do about sustainability, soon.



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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna Singh is the founder at IamRenew

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