Regulators ban Iceland’s “political” palm oil-related Christmas ad…but retailer launches campaign on YouTube

Retailer Christmas adverts have been the source of much anticipation in the weeks building up to the big day in recent years, with retailers blowing their advertising budgets to ensure their advert becomes the most talked about of the season.

For many consumers, the first screenings of the biggest adverts now herald the start of the festive build-up, a key milestone in the Christmas calendar.

However, this year, Iceland’s advert will not appear on TV alongside those of other leading retailers – as its anticipated advert hasn’t made it to our screens. Following a year of leading the retail industry in sustainability initiatives, Iceland had elected to do something different with its advertising spend.

Earlier this year, Iceland committed to remove palm oil from all its own label food by the end of 2018. As the retailer nears completion of the project and offers consumers the choice of a Christmas without palm oil, a plan for a Christmas advert to raise awareness of the issues surrounding palm oil was devised.

The retailer had hoped to use a short film, Rang-tan, as its main Christmas advert. Rang-tan is an emotive animation telling the story of rainforest destruction caused by palm oil production, and its devastating impact on the critically endangered orangutan.

It was hoped that the advert would improve shoppers’ understanding of the widespread usage of palm oil, which appears in more than 50% of all supermarket products. The advert would have seen Iceland committing over half a million pou­­­­­­nds of media spend to ensure that it was seen by millions of consumers – a bold move away from the usual commercial, product-led advertising in order to highlight an important issue. However, this may have proven a brave step too far as the advert was banned by advertising regulators.

Richard Walker, managing director at Iceland, said: “Throughout 2018 we have led the retail industry to take action in areas such as the usage of palm oil and plastics, and this year we were keen to do something different with our much anticipated Christmas advert. The culmination of our palm oil removal project is offering our customers the choice of a Christmas without palm oil, and we wanted to reflect this in our advertising.

“Whilst our advert sadly never made it to TV screens, we are hopeful that consumers will take to social media to view the film, which raises awareness of an important global issue. Our commitment to say ‘no to palm oil’ remains extremely close to our hearts and we are proud to be encouraging consumers to make sustainable choices, even without the support of TV advertising, ahead of the Christmas shopping season.”

Iceland, the UK’s leading frozen food specialist, is offering consumers a Christmas range without palm oil. The range has been carefully crafted, with recipes reworked to ensure that the removal of palm oil has no effect on quality or taste.

Iceland made the decision to demonstrate to the food and retail industries that it is possible to reduce the demand for palm oil by seeking alternative ingredient solutions. Growing demand for palm oil for use in food products, cosmetics and biodiesel is devastating tropical rainforests across South East Asia. In Indonesia and Malaysia, where expanding palm oil and wood pulp plantations are the biggest driver of deforestation[1], many species are being threatened with extinction, including the orangutan, already critically endangered.

For more information about the Iceland Christmas range and the palm oil commitment please visit