As part of its festive campaign the discount supermarket struck a deal with Greenpeace to rebadge an animated short film featuring an orangutan and the destruction of its rainforest habitat at the hands of palm oil growers.
Earlier this year, Iceland became the first major UK supermarket to pledge to remove palm oil from all its own-brand foods. Habitat loss in countries such as Malaysia – a major global producer of palm oil – has contributed to the orangutan now being classified as critically endangered.
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Read more Clearcast, the body responsible for vetting ads before they are broadcast to the public, said it was in breach of rules banning political advertising laid down by the 2003 Communications Act.
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This was a film that Greenpeace made with a voice over by Emma Thompson, said Icelands founder, Malcolm Walker. 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.
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One of the stipulations enshrined in the broadcast code for advertising practice (BCAP), is that an ad is prohibited if it is directed towards a political end.
Clearcast and the broadcasters have to date been unable to clear this Iceland ad because we concerned that it doesnt comply with the political rules of the BCAP code, said a spokeswoman for Clearcast. The creative submitted to us is linked to another organisation who have not yet been able to demonstrate compliance in this area.
Iceland will still be placing TV ads, but only 10-second clips that will highlight palm oil-free products.
Icelands Christmas advert 2018 BANNED before it even goes on TV – watch it here now
We wanted [the Greenpeace film] to be our signature campaign, said Richard Walker, Malcolms son, who has led Icelands switch to environmental campaigning. We have said repeatedly we are not anti-palm oil, we are anti-deforestation.
Theres a human in my forest and I dont know what to do, the orangutan says. He took away my mother and Im scared hell take me too.
We think this is a huge story that needs to be told. We always knew there was a risk [the clip would not be cleared for TV] but we gave it our best shot.
The commercial, made with Greenpeace, features an animated orangutan and highlights the destruction of the rainforest by palm oil growers.
Watch the Iceland Christmas advert that has been banned before it goes on TV
The advertising clearance body, Clearcast, who screen broadcast adverts, deemed that the film breaks rules banning political advertising laid down by the 2003 Communications Act.
Earlier this year, Iceland became the first major UK supermarket to announce they are removing palm oil from all its own-brand products.
Iceland's founder Malcolm Walker said: "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."
The watchdog said in a statement: "Clearcast and the broadcasters have to date been unable to clear this Iceland ad because we concerned that it doesnt comply with the political rules of the BCAP code.
"The creative submitted to us is linked to another organisation who have not yet been able to demonstrate compliance in this area."