British supermarket Iceland made waves this week when it announced that TV ad regulators, Clearcast, had banned its Christmas ad for being “too political”.
The advert highlighted the devastation that rainforests and critically-endangered orangutans are experiencing due to the increased use of palm oil.
For reference, palm oil is one of the most widely-used ingredients on the planet, and is found in around 50% of products on supermarket shelves. The reason it is so attractive to manufacturers, is: A) because of its versatility (it is used in the likes of food products, cleaning products, cosmetics and toiletries). B) It is the least-expensive vegetable oil in the world – in other words, it’s a manufacturer’s dream ingredient.
This would all be well and good if it wasn’t for the devastation it causes. Both rainforests and orangutans are dying at a rapid rate to make way for palm oil plantations. In the last 20 years, it is thought that over 100,000 orangutans have died. Furthermore, they will be extinct from the planet entirely within eight years if things carry on the way they are.
Political Agenda or Commercial Agenda?
Iceland’s Christmas advert, which highlighted these issues in a beautifully-emotive way, certainly appeared to have no political agenda behind it. What’s more likely, is that it didn’t suit the needs of, and could potentially be harmful to, Clearcast’s other commercial partners – many of whom use palm oil in their products.
Thankfully, Iceland took to its social media pages to help spread news of the ban, and to get the video seen and the message heard. Since the video was posted on Friday 9th November, it has had over 10 million views and over half a million shares on Facebook.
A petition was also started for the ban to be overturned in a bid to get the video shown on TV over Christmas. So far it has gained more than a staggering 500,000 signatures.
Some might say it was a genius move on Iceland’s part, and Clearcast have in a lot of ways done them a favour. While both of these statements might be true, so much more has been revealed…
1. The People Hold The Power
“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.” – John Lennon
As humans, we don’t want to be suppressed. We want control over what we are shown, and some level of control over the way in which commercialism is run, which is demonstrated in how widely the video has been shared.
Had Iceland’s ad been showed on television as originally planned, it’s unlikely that the outcome would have been the same. The fact that it was banned, seemed to stir emotion, and most certainly caused more interest, resulting in it going viral and helping to highlight the destruction caused by palm oil.
What this tells us, is that when the people come together, we are far more mighty than any commercial campaign ever could be. Remember, there are 7.5 billion people on earth, 66 million of those in the UK. That’s a strong force, and there’s nothing more frightening to commercial giants than the people becoming aware of injustice and taking control.
You can make sure you are using the control you do have by actively taking part in raising awareness, and getting behind, causes that matter. Not only causes that matter to you, but causes that are important for our planet too, and of course animals who don’t have a voice of their own.
2. We Want to Do More
The majority of us have a deep yearning for positive change; we don’t want animals and nature to bear the brunt of human greed, and we are moved when we hear of suffering.
But most people don’t do anything about it. Not because they don’t care, but more because they aren’t even aware of the true extent of world’s biggest issues, and are, instead, unknowingly participating in the problem that is causing it: consumerism.
That deep inner yearning to do good in the world, isn’t getting a chance to come to the surface because we are being bombarded with superficiality. In other words, we are being “dumbed down” and ignorance certainly isn’t bliss.
What we then end up with, is a feeling of emptiness because we can never find true satisfaction in anything exterior or shallow. Fulfilment only ever comes from within; regardless of what we’ve been taught to believe.
What happened with Iceland’s video was a positive step for us all; it woke us up and showed that humans DO favour meaningful causes over meaningless products, and we can make sure this leaves a lasting impact.
When something is brought to our attention that stirs a feeling within of wanting to do more to help, we mustn’t allow those moments to leave us until we have done something about it. We need to run away with those ideas, and not let them run away from us.
After all, the choices we make and the things we decide to either turn a blind eye to, or become wise to, go a long way in shaping this world. We each have a powerful footprint, whichever way we decide to use it.
3. The Christmas Spirit is Still Alive
Lastly, Iceland did a great job of reminding us what Christmas is all about: giving. But it’s not the superficial gifts that matter.
The sheer devastation that is currently happening in Southeast-Asia due to the demand for palm oil really hit a nerve with a lot of people, and brought out something in us that we rarely get to see; Christmas spirit.
Christmas is about love, warmth, kindness, doing good for those less fortunate, and being thankful for what we have. the video touched on every chord that is relevant to the true values of Christmas.
As humans, we have so much to give other people, animals and the planet. We can keep this spirit alive all year round, not just at Christmas! Use your time here to create more love, more justice and more kindness in the world.
If you haven’t had a chance to watch the video yet, here it is: