Iceland’s new ad got banned by the ASA when it was launched, as it was deemed to be too political. True, there is a partnership of sorts with Greenpeace there and its message about palm oil is crystal clear.
True, perhaps Iceland went a little too far using Greenpeace’s material. Then again, that might have been the objective from the start. To date the ad has been watched more than 50 million times online – nothing like a banned ad to attract interest and – generally – positive PR. In fact, Iceland has taken full advantage with a further recent PR stunt, leaving an orangutan ‘stranded’ in London this week.
To ban an ad ‘because of its political nature’ seems to highlight an inconsistency in why ads are banned. Plenty of ads past and present include a political message, and they were never banned. Think about Benetton; their ads were about anything but clothing, and always hotly anticipated and debated in equal measure. Another example is the recent Coca Cola ad with model Kendall Jenner, thought to reference the protests against police brutality in the US. Again, stirring up a debate and creating a backlash towards the brand, but not banned.
It appears that the partnership with Greenpeace and the usage of their material was the spanner in the works for Iceland. Greenpeace is not backward in shaming governments and organisations and their methods are known to be confrontational in order to create an impact. However, they are a charity. Does this mean organisations cannot have links to a charity and use those to advertise with? Name me one large organisation that does not have close links with one or more charities and uses it to their advantage to tick the social responsibility box. And, who decides at what point an ad becomes ‘political’ anyway? All charities have a political agenda to a greater or lesser degree, trying to improve funding, cure illness, reduce poverty, etc.
If we are to believe Clearcast’s reasoning that ‘it is a matter of advertising law’, perhaps this law is antiquated. After all, in this day and age of online sharing, you cannot truly ban an ad anymore anyway, once it’s out there. Social media will make sure of that, especially if people feel strongly about a topic. But that’s a whole other blog post in itself!
So, the ASA and Clearcast need to move with the times and clarify their position on what constitutes a political ad in this day and age. Should consumers be kept in the dark of the facts because politics are not allowed in ads? Where does one draw the line? Politics already interferes greatly with advertising, dictating the rules in finance, tobacco, and tightening the rules for ads to children to tackle obesity. Then why is the environment deemed too political?
Whether intended or not, this is a coup for Iceland. In the current climate, where conservation and how we treat our planet is at the forefront of people’s minds, I’m sure that this won’t be the last time politics will be used by other brands to engage with consumers and dominate the headlines.
Written by Inge