A look at what really matter in Iceland/Greenpeace’s ‘Rang-Tan’

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This weekend something extraordinary happened.

My friends, who do not work in advertising, starting discussing advertising.

What prompted the furious pings of our WhatsApp group was, of course, Greenpeace & Iceland’s viral sensation: Rang-Tan.

We all agreed on two things. Firstly, it was absurd that this ad was banned, and secondly, that the advert was beautifully crafted.

Where we differed in opinion, was that they felt Iceland was getting ‘far too much credit’.

At work this morning, I encountered a not dissimilar vein of thought: ‘why couldn’t Iceland have just used their own creative? Why did they have to steal Greenpeace’s?’


Does this really matter?!

My friends’ argument was understandable. Ostensibly, a typical commercial machine had taken a hardworking but criminally underfunded charity’s film and used it as a way to sell their products. Nasty.

But I don’t have a problem with Iceland using this film to sell their products. And I don’t really mind that Greenpeace’s logo isn’t included either. This is not yet another embarrassing execution under misdirected brand purpose. This is something real.

Let’s remember that we are all living under capitalism.

At the end of the day, the people with power are the commercial machines. Why? Because the adage that ‘money talks’ is painfully true.

I don’t know why Greenpeace didn’t try to air their ad on TV. Presumably it’s because they don’t have money to spare. They’re too busy fighting the good fight on the ground.

Iceland, however do. Although Clearcast prevented a TV viewership, Iceland have still managed to get far more people talking about palm oil and Orang-utans than they were when only Greenpeace owned the creative.

We hope that some of this cultural chatter and ‘awareness’ will translate into action.

It’ll be a good thing if more people shop at Iceland this Christmas (and after). Then more people are shopping in a supermarket that has banned palm oil. And, let’s remember, has a five-year plan to eliminate plastic on all own-brand products too.

Hopefully, this will force other supermarkets to clean up their own act.

This is how causes work under capitalism: competitively.

When companies adopt causes, they do so because they believe it will help them sell products. This is why I think calling Iceland’s advert ‘brave’ is perhaps a little misguided.

If Iceland thought this ad would hamper their sales, would they run it?

Probably not.

Most likely, it’s this risk-aversion which contributed to their decision to remove the Greenpeace logo.

Cited in The Guardian, Iceland’s founder, Malcolm Walker, says: “This was a film that Greenpeace made with a voice over by Emma Thompson… we got permission to use it and take off the Greenpeace logo and use it as the Iceland Christmas ad. It would have blown the John Lewis ad out of the window. It was so emotional.”

Greenpeace are a divisive organisation. Particularly their blanket anti-DDT and anti-GM positioning. Respectively, this risked increasing malaria and denying millions nourishment.

Perhaps, if Iceland were really brave, they might have credited Greenpeace; signally their alignment with a controversial charity.

But they didn’t.

So let’s remember that when we guffaw at their courage.

From their founders’ words, it sounds as though their aim was to secure the most emotional Christmas TV ad of the year. I’m not sure how brave this is…

Fundamentally though, let’s also try and remember that in the grand scheme of rainforests, logos (and adverts) are less than an infinitesimal speck of insignificance.

Removing palm oil from your products however is not.

So for this Iceland, I applaud you.


Summer Taylor, Strategist at Atomic London


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