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How Iceland’s Banned TV Christmas Ad Became a Phenomenon

Christmas TV ads are such big business, that they’ve become an art form in their own right. The planning, the pride, the expectation and the money means that they’re a BIG DEAL. It’s never part of the plan to get one banned (for the average brand at least!), so when it happens, it’s always a big shock. We wouldn’t like to be the CMO in charge of breaking that to the CEO.

Iceland’s TV Ad is the latest, well-publicised victim of the ad police for being ‘too political’. However, their little Orangutan has successfully garnered huge publicity for the brand. In fact, a mere three days after the news broke of the banned ad, Iceland has been enjoying its biggest ever interest online.

Its memorable, its simple, it tugs on your heartstrings AND your conscience, which makes it personal. So unsurprisingly it’s gone viral.

We’ve seen search Intent for Iceland go through the roof. In fact, this news story has propelled Iceland’s typical search interest into another orbit. From an online advertising perspective, the banned ad is a real gift.

Youtube views have exceeded 3.5 million – and this is just for an ad. Whilst viewing numbers on Facebook have topped a whopping 12 million, and Twitter is storming ahead with 14.5 million video views and rising.

This kind of surge in interest is hard to predict. That’s why technology like ours which allows brands to sync advertising to spikes across the digital ecosystem to serve online ads when consumers are interested, can be a secret weapon in cases like this.

Tapping into the Zeitgeist

That’s not all of course. Given the subject – the defenceless Orangutan faced with a decimated habitat caused by consumer demand for palm oil – Iceland have successfully re-invigorated the palm oil debate.

We’ve seen a host of celebrities weighing into the debate, highlighting the video to their followers. James Cordon (10M Twitter followers) and sparking 170,000 shares and 300 comments.

On the face of it, it’s just a Christmas TV Ad – but it’s grown bigger than that. It’s tapping into the powerful triumvirate of trends: responsible consumerism, environmental sustainability, and the social media empowered consumer. This time though, we’re seeing greater social outcry than just Iceland consumers, because the cause is bigger than just the brand.

Again, this provides a host of opportunities for Iceland to sync search and Social ads to this interest in palm oil.  Automated technology like ours can be turned on fast and unrolled at scale. It’s powerful because it allows Iceland to take their brand directly to each individual consumer, in a way that’s personalised and relevant.

Generating Category Uplift

Now a surprising element of this story is the uplift arch rival supermarket Aldi has enjoyed as a result. In the last 7 days, Aldi has seen an almost 3000% increase in search for ‘Aldi palm oil’ and an overall uptick in search interest. Surprisingly other supermarkets haven’t seen the same interest.


Aldi’s stance on palm oil is here.

So what became of the orangutan character? There’s a robotic orangutan in the works of course, and like everyone, we’re waiting to see the uplift this ad ban has on Iceland’s brand equity and Christmas revenue.

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