The Power of a Good Idea


We like to think we’re reasonably good at what we do at Arch Communications, but sometimes you just have to step back and admire someone else’s clever marketing.

If you’ve missed the news that Iceland Foods have had their Christmas advertising campaign banned by Clearcast, the body which approves such things for TV, you’re probably in the minority.

This short video, showing a young orangutan witnessing the destruction of his habitat, has been made the centre of their festive campaign. Iceland say they want to raise awareness around the devastating impact of deforestation caused by palm oil growers. Clearcast, however, ruled the clip didn’t comply with rules on political advertising.

What a nightmare, you might think. Not exactly…

Less than 12 hours since the news broke, and the video had been viewed on Facebook an incredible 1.5 million times, re-tweeted over 25,000 times and even made the national headlines.

So – a lucky break for Iceland, or did they mean it all along?

What’s really going on here?

When setting out a PR or marketing strategy there are five steps to consider:

  1. Business/ organisational objectives
  2. Research
  3. Insight
  4. Potential strategies
  5. Agreeing and delivering a final plan


Objective: Don’t be fooled – Iceland may have shunned the stereotypical Christmas advert, but their ultimate objective, of increasing sales over the festive period, hasn’t changed. If anything, people are talking more about Iceland now than ever before.

Research: Environmental sustainability is never far from the headlines. In April, Iceland became the first major UK supermarket to pledge to eradicate palm oil from all of its own-brand foods. This generated some positive PR that they wanted to build on.

Insight: Showing a commitment in this area almost certainly opened the door for a new ‘type’ of consumer. Remember the days when Iceland sold itself as budget-friendly supermarket – “and that’s why Mums go to Iceland?”

By gathering data around what motivates and influences potential consumers Iceland have been able to run a targeted campaign focused on engaging with a new market.


Agreeing and delivering a final plan:

Iceland’s founder Malcolm Walker said: “This was a film that Greenpeace made with a voiceover by Emma Thompson. We got permission to take off their logo and use it as the Iceland Christmas ad. It would have blown the John Lewis ad out of the window, it was so emotional.”

Now here’s the clever part…

Iceland would almost certainly have known Clearcast would rule the ad was too political and against the rules – after all, they aren’t new to this game. But with social media at their fingertips, who cares?

Releasing this video on Facebook and Twitter with the caption, “You won’t see our Christmas advert on TV this year, because it was banned. But we want to share Rang-tan’s story with you this Christmas. Will you help us tell the story?” is simply genius.

All the best marketing makes an emotional connection, and this video certainly does that. Not surprisingly, people are sharing and watching it – doing Iceland’s work for them, and spreading Greenpeace’s message at the same time.

All Iceland have actually done here is rebadge a video and ask the nation to share it – and wow, has it worked. Iceland has even saved substantially on TV advertising costs!

This is a perfect example of how a slightly unconventional approach can really pay off. It also illustrates the key role of social media in 21st century marketing…as long as the underlying idea is good enough.

If you’d like help with your PR or Marketing strategy get in touch.

Iceland palm oil