Iceland's banned palm oil advert should have aired, says ITV chief

Carolyn McCall said it was ‘ludicrous’ ad seen 65m times online could not run on TV

The chief executive of ITV has said she believes Iceland’s controversial anti-palm oil festive campaign should have been allowed to air on TV.

As part of its festive campaign the discount supermarket struck a deal with Greenpeace to rebadge an animated short film featuring an orangutan and the destruction of its rainforest habitat at the hands of palm-oil growers.

Clearcast, the body that works on behalf of broadcasters to vet ads before they are aired to the public, said it was in breach of rules banning political advertising as laid down by the 2003 Communications Act.

Carolyn McCall, ITV’s chief executive
Carolyn McCall, ITV’s chief executive. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Carolyn McCall, the chief executive of the UK’s biggest commercial free-to-air broadcaster, said her personal opinion was that the advert should have been allowed to air on TV.

“So Iceland ran an ad deemed to be a political advert in its entire form on social media,” she said, speaking on a panel at Mediatel’s Future TV Advertising Forum on Wednesday. “We could not run the advert, it’s so ludicrous [that it can run online but not on TV]. I think it should have been allowed. But if it’s not allowed [on TV] why is it allowed to run as content anywhere else?”

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McCall was not criticising Clearcast – the body has already faced a “storm of abuse” over the issue – with ITV agreeing with the other broadcasters that under the law as it stands it could not run.

Rather, she was using the Iceland ad furore as an illustration of how there is no level regulatory playing field between traditional TV and online. After failing to get its advert on TV, Iceland turned to social media where it has been viewed more than 65m times.

It was deemed that the content of the ad itself was not the issue that breached the political ad prohibition in the Communications Act 2003, it was the association with Greenpeace, which is deemed to be a body “whose object is wholly or mainly of a political nature”.

Even though the Greenpeace badge was removed from the ad, the group had used it extensively and that was what caused the ad to break the rules.


Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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