Clearcast’s Iceland decision shouldn’t upset eco-warriors | Contagious

Rang-tan might not make it on TV, but maybe that’s a blessing in disguise

Earlier this year, Iceland announced it would remove palm oil from all its own-brand products by April 2019. It was the first big British supermarket to do so and I was (and still am) impressed. Palm oil is in almost everything: bread, peanut butter, laundry detergent, shampoo, even lipstick. When you hear about the damage Palm Oil production does to the environment and, consequently, the orangutan population (it has halved it), you start checking ingredient labels, and, let me tell you, you end up putting most stuff back.

My point is, Iceland cutting palm oil from all its own-brand products isn’t a simple task, it’s an investment. So, it’s not surprising that the retailer wanted to tell the whole world about it at a time when people actually seem to care about advertising – Christmas.

Somewhat unusually, Iceland decided the best way to promote its environmental credentials was to re-badge an existing Greenpeace ad about how the palm-oil industry is devastating orangutan populations, and broadcast it on TV.

‘We got permission to use it and take off the Greenpeace 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,’  Iceland founder, Malcolm Walker, told the Guardian.

Clearcast, the organisation that ensures British TV broadcasters comply with advertising law, didn’t see it as emotional, though. It saw it as political, and refused to clear it for broadcast on the grounds that it contravened UK law.

Clearcast made this decision based on the BCAP code (which is, in turn, based on 2003 Communications Act), rule 7.2 of which states: ‘Advertising that contravenes the prohibition on political advertising set out below must not be included in television or radio services.’

What constitutes being political? There are three routes in, but the key one here is: ‘an advertisement which is inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature.’

But rather than discuss the legal ins and outs, I’m going to explain why this decision actually proves how much of an environmental evangelist Clearcast is.

I didn’t see Iceland’s Christmas ad last year. I’ll admit it, I’d never actually googled the words ‘Christmas ad’ before writing this article. But I’m still familiar with the Sainsbury’s cat that ruined Christmas (until the love and joy of the holidays solved everything) and the John Lewis dog bouncing on the trampoline. Iceland’s festive offering, until now, has pretty much passed me by, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

This year, however, is a different story.

The original Iceland Facebook post, which contained the film, has already been shared more than 600,000 times. In total, the film has amassed 35 million views, not including any editorial posts, since Friday. In less than 24 hours the spot had been covered across 31 print newspapers, 126 online sites and in 100 five-minute TV and radio clips. Almost 700,000 people have signed a petition on demanding that the ad be cleared for TV broadcast.

Even environment secretary Michael Gove has taken the time to tweet about it.

The word ‘banned’ does wonders for PR.

It’s the same psychological response you get when your parents tell you not to eat, drink or watch something. Suddenly it becomes much more desirable.

When the US government tried to lower teen smoking rates in the 1990s, with various warning campaigns, teen smoking rates increased (even though smoking rates generally went down). Prohibition didn’t even come close to stopping people from drinking. And, as Guardian journalist Elle Hunt, who, at age 17, was lured into reading American Psycho because of the R18 sticker the library had placed on it, recently wrote: ‘No text is more compelling than one that is supposed to be off-limits.’

Controversy incites curiosity. And I’m sure that’s exactly what the Clearcast representative was thinking* when they rejected Iceland’s ad. ‘This will help them,’ they must** have thought. ‘It’ll just get lost in between Sainsbury’s and John Lewis if we just put it on TV.’

It’s unclear whether this was Iceland’s intended course from the get-go, or just a well-executed Plan B. Either way, it’s unquestionably a PR success story.

So, the Clearcast decision doesn’t matter.

It’s actually quite a serendipitous convergence of events. Greenpeace has been known to get a little rambunctious with its save-the-environment messages (their ‘your flight has an impact’ ads, for example, showed polar bears falling to their deaths from the sky), but this time the government-lobbying group chose to make their message more kid-friendly.

We interviewed Mother* (which created the orangutan ad), when the campaign was first released for Greenpeace, and strategist Marcus Watson said that Greenpeace ‘didn’t want to lose their edge or the ability to confront people with home truths, but they wanted to experiment with a different tone.’

So instead of going in hard, Mother moved away from aggression and took a more emotional (and more appropriate-for-prime-time-TV) route that still got the message across. ‘The issue of destructive palm oil can feel a little bit removed,’ said Watson. ‘And I think we felt the issue around orangutans was a way of making it particularly emotional.’

The Clearcast decision was based on the fact that the ad was initially created for Greenpeace, an organisation that lobbies governments to change laws, and the BCAP code interprets ‘political’ widely, to encompass any company that seeks to influence legislation. If Iceland had made this ad themselves it (most likely) would have been aired. But Iceland didn’t, and (most likely) wouldn’t have. It’s a frozen food brand, so probably doesn’t brief its agency to make truth-spouting, attitude-shifting ads like Rang-tan.

So this has turned into an opportune way to get the issue of palm oil out into the public consciousness. If a ‘banned’ TV ad is what it takes to educate people about it, that’s fine by me.

* it’s unlikely this is what they were thinking
** they had many other options of what they could have thought

***Contagious I/O subscribers can read our whole interview with Mother, here.

Source: Clearcast’s Iceland decision shouldn’t upset eco-warriors | Contagious

Gen-Z’s most downloaded App | Contagious

The most downloaded app in the Apple Store in October wasn’t Facebook, YouTube or Instagram, it was TikTok, a short-form lip-syncing app.

It might be ‘cringey’ (as the Atlantic has confirmed) but it’s also indicative of a new movement in social communications. TikTok was created by Chinese company ByteDance. You may remember ByteDance as the company that in 2017 acquired longer-form lip-syncing app In August 2018, the Chinese conglomerate merged the two platforms together, spelling an end to the brand. was a Gen Z favourite in the US and Europe, with over 100 million active users. TikTok, on the other hand, was popular in the Asian market, with a userbase of 500 million.

These figures are nothing to laugh at. The videos created on TikTok, however, are. Four boys in a hardware store fist pumping along to MC Hammer with actual hammers in their hands; dogs tapping instruments to the tune of Stand By Me; or a young girl miming along to a disastrous speech by South African president Jacob Zuma. It’s very diverse. As well as the funny stuff, the platform is also saturated with videos of kids shuffle-dancing, lip-syncing to Miley Cyrus and performing the kind of scene-splicing tricks that were made popular on defunct video platform Vine.

‘2017 will be remembered as the year transitioned from an app primarily for posting music videos to a broader social-media and entertainment platform,’ the Wall Street Journal wrote in November last year. Now and TikTok are one in the same, and more social media players are taking notice of music’s potential influence.

When we interviewed’s then North America president, Alex Hofmann, in 2016, he told us: ‘We see as an entertainment social network. There are other platforms out there that are social, and others that are based on entertainment. We want to bring those two together.’

Others have spotted the opportunity to combine music with social media, too. A few weeks ago, Soundcloud announced it would allow users to share music straight from its app to Instagram Stories, Facebook signed music licensing deals with three major labels back in January, and Instagram introduced music stickers to Stories in June.

Hofmann left after the merger and now works as an adviser to TuneMoji, an app for adding sounds to GIFs. TuneMoji was founded by ex-Myspace Europe head James Fabricant, who thinks music is becoming a larger part of social chatter because it ‘adds another layer of richness to communication’.

But what’s the point in musical GIFs? No one scrolls their phone with the sound on, right? Wrong. Times have changed and so have people’s audio preferences.

As well as the rising popularity of music-based apps, young consumers have been sending Snapchat Stories with sound to each other for years. ‘There are 190 million kids sending hundreds of Stories back and forward to each other every day, so they aren’t switching their audio off and on in between, they’re just keeping it on because who cares,’ says Fabricant. But this shift is happening across the board, it’s not just kids, he continues: ‘For older people, it’s been the adoption of wireless headphones, particularly the Apple Air Pods.’ Now your sound can always be on, because any noise coming out of your phone goes directly into your ears (or, your nearby headphones) so it doesn’t disturb anyone else.

As people spend more and more time online, their desire to express themselves fully in a digital way has grown. ‘The table stakes for how people communicate, especially Gen Z, have raised,’ says Fabricant. ‘It’s no longer enough to just write someone a text.’

The question here is whether brands can find a way to get involved in that communication. Catalogues would arrive with your post; spam with your email; and banner ads on social media. Perhaps short clips with sound are a way for brands to get into messaging apps.

‘Eighty-two percent of sharing now happens on private social networks,’ says Fabricant, explaining that the GIFs on TuneMoji are all created by users, and then shared privately. ‘This is very powerful for brands because there’s no real way to get in there at the moment. Dark social is the most valuable real estate on the market, compared to social media, which is very saturated.’

I’m not saying this is the only answer, but when Wendy’s next calls out McDonald’s for using frozen patties, a musical GIF of the Wendy’s girl singing Madonna’s Frozen would go down a treat as far as I’m concerned.

Source: Gen-Z’s most downloaded App | Contagious

Bloody risky | Contagious

Bodyform broke through unconscious biases with its Blood Normal campaign. Everyone should try it

Around this time last year, Bodyform released the first sanitary pad ad in the UK to show real period blood. Some, like us, reacted positively, with words like ‘finally’ and ‘How hasn’t this happened before?’. Others, like @Hu on Twitter (not their real handle), reacted negatively, with, ‘You’re gross and the blood that gushes out of you makes me wretch.’

Media owners across Europe also responded badly. Many rejected the spot, which featured a montage of period-related vignettes, such as a woman interrupting a dinner party to ask for a pad and a man buying sanitary towels at a supermarket, as well as a bit of blood running down a woman’s leg while she showered.

But that wasn’t even the first hurdle. First, Bodyform (Libresse elsewhere in Europe) and its agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, London, had to convince higher-ups at parent company Essity that real period blood was an essential feature of the ad.

‘Obviously there was a lot of resistance internally and it’s all due to the fact that taboos by nature are deeply ingrained, mostly unconscious and people react very negatively to them. And then they feel pressured by the norm and fight against it,’ says Margaux Revol, planner at AMV BBDO. ‘It’s nothing other than your unconscious bias, your unconscious visceral reaction, so you need a champion to push it through.’

A study by Cornell University found that, regardless of how much we say we want creativity, we are unconsciously biased against it. Results of the 2010 research revealed that even people who claimed to desire creative concepts subconsciously associated them with negative words such as ‘vomit’, ‘poison’ and ‘agony’. In the case of Blood Normal, the unconscious bias was obviously not just against the creative concept, but it proves how important it is to push past these biases – whether that means embracing creativity, or menstrual blood.

We reference this Cornell study often at Contagious. But it so accurately conveys the barrier to real creativity that it’s hard to resist doing so. What it means is, even if you are the kind of client that’s pushing for the most creative marketing, there’s a big chance you or your organisation will reject those very ideas when they’re presented.

Luckily for Bodyform – which has seen a huge increase in purchase intent since Blood Normal was released – Martina Poulopati, global brand manager at Essity, and Tanja Grubner, Essity’s global marketing and communications director, made sure the creative execution wasn’t dulled.

The next hurdle – being rejected by media owners – didn’t stump them, either. But it did make them realise just how big of a deal this was. ‘That’s when we realised that the taboo was even more ingrained than we had thought,’ says Revol. ‘We knew the representation was wrong, but when we tried to do something about it, we realised that the media owners are the inadvertent guardians of facilitating the taboos. But that is all the more reason to keep pushing.’

‘We didn’t just want to say that periods should be normal, we wanted to actually make them normal,’ says Poulopati, and that meant getting the campaign out to the public through all the normal channels. ‘It was less about preaching the message, and more about actually making it happen.’

TV was a no go, so they went digital instead. But even online platforms put up a fight. The knickers created by French underwear brand Dessù, for example, which were embroidered suggestively with red thread, were deemed ‘completely unacceptable to show’, says Nadja Lossgott, creative partner at AMV BBDO. ‘So we went back to them and showed all the sexualised images of women from other brands. Those are completely allowed, but what we are showing, something that is so normal and natural, is the very thing you think is disgusting and inappropriate to show.’

Eventually online distributors gave in, and the campaign’s immediate success led to the French advertising authorities, which had initially rejected the TV ad, changing their minds. The campaign generated a 90% share of social voice for Bodyform, versus its main competitor Always’ 9% (the split was previously Bodyform 37%, Always 62%), and won AMV BBDO the Glass Lion Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Lions festival.

Funny thing is, unconscious bias almost got in the way of that too. In a press conference, Madonna Badger, head of the Glass jury, admitted that even the jury were squeamish at first. ‘It was only when the women came and gave us the live presentation that they reminded us of why this work is so important,’ she said.

The moral of the story: aim for something that makes you feel a little bit ill. It’s something we hear time and time again from award-winning marketers. ‘We want to be scared,’ Stephen de Wolf, an executive creative director at Clemenger BBDO who helped create the Cannes Lions Grand Prix-winning Meet Graham, Snickers’ Gold Lion-winning Hungerithm and Airbnb’s Acceptance Ring campaigns, told me last year. ‘We want to feel uncomfortable when we see things, and the clients need to feel that in a good way too.’

Burger King’s agency David in Miami doesn’t even consider an idea unless it requires talking to their lawyers. ‘We look at them and say: “Are we going to get sued? Yes. Okay, let’s proceed with this idea”,’ Tony Kalathara, creative director at David Miami, told us in the last issue of Contagious Magazine. At Most Contagious 2015, Dennis Maloney, then VP, chief digital officer at Domino’s Pizza and the man who signed off the brand’s AnyWare initiative, told the audience: ‘There’s one very dead-on thing that happens every time we are stumbling upon something that’s a very big idea. We become really, really uncomfortable.’

But it has to be the right kind of discomfort. ‘You have to be careful it’s not just provocation and uncomfortable because it’s edgy,’ said Tracey Cooke, VP of communication and marketing excellence at Nestlé. ‘It needs to be uncomfortable because it taps into something, something deep-seated or an area we haven’t really explored.’

Blood Normal fits that bill. The campaign took a creative risk to stand up for something that was relevant to the brand and important to its customers, rather than something flippant that would draw media attention. Bloody brilliant, I say.

Source: Bloody risky | Contagious