Iceland’s Christmas Advert: Pros vs. Cons

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and we’re already seeing a conversation spark around the iconic Christmas adverts released by British brands this festive season. As customers anticipate their release, figures have suggested that spend is at an all time high this year, with John Lewis spending around £10 million for 2018 for example — a £3 million increase from last year.

Although the likes of M&S and Sainsbury’s have already released their Christmas adverts, and John Lewis releasing the rocketman himself, one advert that won’t be gracing our screens this year is from frozen-food supermarket Iceland.

Clearcast, which is a non-governmental organisation that approves and declines television adverts, made the decision to block Iceland’s Christmas advert from airing as a matter of broadcasting law and a breach of political advertising rules. The ban itself has created an uproar across social media, with celebrities like James Corden and Bill Bailey using their platforms to address the situation. On top of this, a petition has even been created with over 850,000 signatures to uplift the ban of the advert, which has generated a lot of publicity for the brand which has now released a new orangutan campaign.

The 90-second advert, which is narrated by actress Emma Thompson, told the story of a young orangutan who found herself homeless due to deforestation caused by palm oil production. Originally created by Greenpeace, Iceland adopted the advert to highlight its own decision to end the use of palm oil in their own products.

Managing director of Clearcast, Chris Mundy, commented that “[it is] an advertisement inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature”, and also mentioned that Greenpeace need to demonstrate that it is not a political advertiser.

But from a marketing standpoint, was the advert a success or a total failure? We address some of the positives and negatives for the brand.


  • Topical — If brands are discussing what their customers are interested in, they instantly become more relatable and credible. The issue around deforestation is an area that more people are becoming aware of and whether this advert got banned or not, it would have still generated mass publicity.
  • The Ban — It will never be known whether Iceland went against Clearcast regulations on purpose in a bid to generate more publicity for their campaign. Off the back of the advert’s ban, they’ve had millions of views worldwide (questionably more than what they could get on TV), celebrity support and a petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures.


  • Guilty By Association — As the advert was originally created by Greenpeace, Iceland’s legal team should have been aware of the repercussions of repurposing an advert from a company that has political motives.
  • Not Christmas Themed — Although the advert generated a lot of publicity, if it was not banned by Clearcast, it may have not done so well due to its lack of Christmas spirit as it was only repurposed.
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