How Iceland’s banned Christmas ad found its place on social
Each year we wait with bated breath to assess the calibre of a new batch of Christmas ads. Certain brands are almost guaranteed to please – and this year, for the most part, they’ve delivered.
From John Lewis’ touching journey back to baby Elton’s tentative first piano notes, to BBC’s poignant seaside “Wonderland”, this has been a strong crop.
2018’s dark horse, however, was frozen-food giant Iceland’s decidedly non-Christmas ad, featuring the now-famous “rang-tan”. And it didn’t even make it onto TV screens.
You probably know the one I mean. First posted last month (after being considered in breach of political advertising codes and banned from TV), the spot has since racked up over 30 million views across social channels.
The hard-hitting animated short, produced by Mother, opens with a little girl who discovers a baby orangutan sneaking about her room. Suddenly, the pastel hues give way to a frightening depiction of a rainforest in ruins, the little orangutan trying desperately to escape machines mowing down trees by the dozen. “There’s a human in my forest,” the Rang-tan, voiced by Emma Thomson, explains, “and I don’t know what to do. He destroyed all of our trees, for your food and your shampoo.”
The ad rejects all the usual Christmas festivity and glitz and is more heart-breaking than heart-warming. It doesn’t even attempt to flog our favourite Christmas treats. The message is clear: in order to make the things we buy, rainforests are destroyed and so are the creatures living in them.
Though few welcome such a heavy dose of guilt in the festive run-up, the ad (and Iceland’s message) quickly went viral. Countless shares from celebrities and influencers created an ‘everyone should see this’ feel – and as more and more people complied, Change.org ran a petition to get the ad aired, raking in over 600,000 signatures in one day.
What’s funny is that the video was originally released way back in August by Greenpeace – but the response wasn’t nearly to this scale. The difference? Aside from a plethora of celebrity plugs, people simply love to rally around a cause that’s been shut down by “Big Corporations”.
We’re handed something on a plate, it goes in one ear and out the other. But tell us we’re not allowed to see it, and you can bet we’ll do our best to uncover what was momentarily hidden from us, shout it from the rooftops, and share it with everyone we know. People love a deviation from the norm – and if that subversion gets banned, we like it even more.
Looking to spark interest in something among the masses? Ban it. Then sit back and watch it spread like wildfire on social media, as millions of likers and sharers scramble to exercise freedom of speech.
Stepping above the saturated Christmas TV ad market and convincing viewers not to buy certain products has been the best move Iceland could have made this Christmas. Whether the masses act on their new-found beliefs is yet to be determined.