Who: Iceland Foods Limited (“Iceland”) and Clearcast
Where: United Kingdom
When: End of October 2018
Law stated as at: 23 November 2018
In the UK, most television advertising is pre-approved for broadcast by Clearcast, which is a private company acting on behalf of several major commercial broadcasters.
At the end of October, Iceland submitted its Christmas advertisement for review to Clearcast. The ad was part of a film made by Greenpeace and features ‘Rang-tan’, an orang-utan, and a little girl. Rang-tan objects to products containing palm oil in the girl’s bedroom, including chocolate and shampoo, and the girl asks why Rang-tan is in her bedroom. This leads to a segment showing humans destroying Rang-tan’s habitat for palm oil. The ad is dedicated to orang-utans that lose their lives to deforestation and ends with Iceland’s commitment to not use palm oil in its own brand products.
Clearcast was unable to clear the ad on the basis that it did not comply with the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (“BCAP Code“) in respect of political advertising. The rule breached is as follows:
“An advertisement contravenes the prohibition on political advertising if it is: an advertisement which is inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature.”
Under the BCAP Code: “the term “political” is used in the Code in a wider sense than “party political”. The prohibition includes, for example, campaigning for the purposes of influencing legislation or executive action by local or national (including foreign) governments“.
As the ad is part of a Greenpeace film that has appeared on Greenpeace’s website for a number of months, Greenpeace’s involvement meant that the ad was political advertising and did not comply with the BCAP Code. The decision was made public by Iceland, which claimed that Greenpeace had “banned” the ad and led to some backlash against Clearcast. Clearcast clarified that it was not a regulator so unable to ban the ad and the ad itself was not political but the close link to Greenpeace was the issue.
Why this matters:
The decision by Clearcast shows that a brand taking a moral stance based on political motives may not contravene the prohibition on political advertising. However, affiliations with political organisations must be approached by care. In addition, this update serves as a reminder that Clearcast is not a regulator (as opposed to the Advertising Standards Authority) and does not have the power to ban ads.