Christmas is a time for giving and this year, Iceland, a supermarket chain in the United Kingdom wanted to give the issue of deforestation some much needed attention with their festive campaign.
Earlier this year, Iceland became the first major UK supermarket to pledge to remove palm oil from all its own-brand foods. Palm oil is big business in places like Malaysia and Indonesia. But the production of it is controversial because it has caused habitat loss for creatures like the orang-utan, which has been classified as critically endangered.
Iceland’s ad is an emotional and hard-hitting piece – an animation featuring a cute little girl and a cute little orang-utan, solemnly ending with a message that 25 orang-utans die every day due to deforestation to make room for palm oil plantations.
And what could have been merely a tear-jerking, momentarily thought-provoking but ultimately lost-amidst-the-festivities kind of ad has become so much more after the ad was banned from airing on national television after being deemed to have breached rules against political advertising.
So in this age of the internet, this move only meant that the video has made the headlines of every major news agency, exploding across social media and around the world, clocking in nearly 6 million views at last count.
Thanks to the ban, the plight of the orang-utan has been highlighted in a spectacular fashion. Petitions are circulating, people are mobilising their boycott power against palm oil and Norway is completely banning palm-oil based biofuels.
But this has made us wonder about advocacy advertising and whether it truly works or is it a double edged sword?
Advocacy advertising is simply a piece of communication that attempts to sway public opinion on specific political, economic or social issues. It does not promote a product or service, rather it is undertaken in the interest of a group or the public.
Sometimes, to get their points across, advocates have to be controversial. They need to shock and awe to change behaviours. But that’s how a body like PETA (the largest animal rights organization in the world) has somehow lost credibility. They’ve become better known for their shocking advertisements and publicity stunts and their messages have been drowned out. In some cases, their messages are merely sources for ridicule:
In others, their advertising are blatant lies.
Which brings us back to palm oil and the orang utan. In a world where populations are booming, and people are demanding (and paying for) a better quality of life than ever before, is a ban and boycott on palm oil truly the way forward?
Research says that by boycotting palm oil, we’re in fact pushing suppliers to create more soya, rapeseed and sunflower oil. All of these oils require more hectares to grow crops than palm oil. And this will mean more destruction of jungles and natural habitats. This is clearly unsustainable and helps no-one in the long run.
What brands need to do is to create with sustainability in mind. To create products and services while being conscious of their impact on the environment and community at large. It is clear that no one in our increasingly crowded world lives in isolation. Every action has a consequence.
So what the Iceland advertisement should be advocating is this – instead of “no palm oil” we should be choosing products that have been created with “sustainable palm oil”.
And as consumers, instead of jumping on any bandwagon that passes by, lets take a step back and put our money where our mouth is – instead of blindly boycotting, lets consciously choose and support sustainable brands that follow high standards of production.
How is your brand contributing to creating a better world, for one and all?
How would your brand participate in the golden age of the geek?
Don’t want to miss out on the weekly shots of branding? Subscribe to our e-newsletter.