A life-size animatronic orangutan will appear in locations around London and across the UK, brought to you by Iceland Supermarkets. The monkey will make his grand appearance at a number of Iceland stores around the country, including Manchester and Birmingham, in search for a new home because deforestation caused by palm oil destroyed the one he had.
“This was a film that Greenpeace made with a voice over by Emma Thompson. 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.” – Walker
“Our stranded, distressed orangutan is a stark and potent symbol of the effects of deforestation. We are determined to be at the forefront of efforts to guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction and Iceland will continue to be a driving force until this environmental impact is drastically reduced.” – Richard Walker, Iceland’s managing director
This stunt to raise awareness is Iceland’s second attempt to inform the public about the threat the species faces because of deforestation. Their first attempt was a Christmas advert highlighting the impact of palm oil production. It was banned and rejected by Clearcast, the body that vets adverts, for breaching rules banning political advertising in the 2003 Communications Act. Ironically, more than 17 million people still ended up watching the ad on Facebook and over 5 million on YouTube, where UK broadcast TV regulations do not apply. Richard Walker, who has led Iceland’s switch to environmental campaigning said:
“We wanted [the Greenpeace film] to be our signature campaign. We have said repeatedly we are not anti-palm oil, we are anti-deforestation. We think this is a huge story that needs to be told. We always knew there was a risk [the clip would not be cleared for TV] but we gave it our best shot.”
The ultra-realistic robotic orangutan is controlled remotely and by a specialist puppeteer who has studied the ape’s movements. The replica was created by a team who has worked on films and TV shows such as Doctor Who and Sherlock.
“The initiative follows on from new research commissioned by Iceland, which reveals that deforestation and the use of palm oil are among the top three environmental concerns of consumers, alongside food waste and single-use plastics.” – Walker
Most people are unaware of the devastating effects of palm oil production on rainforests and orangutan habitat. Iceland’s goal is to make this issue mainstream information. Palm oil is found in half of the items in the supermarket but not Iceland’s new products.
The supermarket chain became the first major UK supermarket to pledge to remove palm oil from all its own-brand foods earlier this year. Now in time for the festival season, the retailer has an extensive range of palm oil-free products available for customers to choose from. Walker said:
“We always try to give people a real choice about what they buy and this was a key driver of our decision to allow Iceland customers to join us in saying ‘no to palm oil. I am immensely proud of the work our food development team has carried out to create this new Christmas range without palm oil – a celebration of our commitment to end its use before the year closes.”