Clearcast staff ‘received abuse’ over Iceland Christmas advert decision

Staff at the organisation at the centre of the storm over Iceland’s Christmas advert about palm oil faced abuse over the issue, its managing director has said.

The commercial, voiced by actress Emma Thompson and originally produced by Greenpeace, features a cartoon orangutan Rang-tan, highlighting damage being done to his rainforest home by palm oil production.

Clearcast, which checks adverts against the UK code of broadcast advertising to ensure they comply with the rules, told retailer Iceland’s ad agency last month it could not clear the commercial.

Iceland followed up its planned advertising campaign with an animatronic orangutan taking to the streets (David Parry/PA)
Iceland followed up its planned advertising campaign with an animatronic orangutan taking to the streets (David Parry/PA)

This was because Greenpeace had made the ad and so it “fell foul of the rule on political advertisers”.

When the story broke, Clearcast received a “deluge of contact”, Chris Mundy, managing director, has said in a blog post.

“Unfortunately, this included a substantial amount of abuse and resulted in the team feeling threatened.

“We had to close our switchboard and subsequently took pictures of our team off the website (they had been circulating on Twitter),” he said.

The company’s Facebook page has been taken down entirely and will not return, he added.

He said it was wrong to claim Clearcast had banned the ad, as it was not a regulator, and that the decision not to clear it was because it had been made by Greenpeace, not because of the content of the commercial.

“In any case, as the broadcasters had decided they could not run the ad under the law, Clearcast had in practice no power to reverse the decision at all,” he said.

But he added: “Of course, the winner has been the environmental message that has been widely shared. If that changes behaviour, then that is a good thing.

“From Clearcast’s perspective, it’s a shame that the team has, to an extent, been collateral damage in getting the message out.”