How Greenpeace’s campaign helped make palm oil as toxic as plastic

When Greenpeace launched its Rang-tan ad with Iceland it caused a social media storm and led to an unprecedented response for the pressure group, which had never seen a campaign deliver on such “scale and speed”.


When Greenpeace launched its orangutan advert it caused a social media storm. It was an unprecedented response for the pressure group, which had never seen a campaign deliver on such “scale and speed”.

The animated ad, narrated by actor and Greenpeace ambassador Emma Thompson, showed a young orangutan called Rang-tan who goes to live with a little girl after his forest home has been destroyed by the palm oil trade.

The ad dominated headlines after Iceland made the decision to run it as its Christmas ad. When Clearcast, the body which approves ads for broadcast on TV, would not sign off the ad as it breached political advertising rules it caused a Twitter storm.

Despite this, the campaign smashed all its targets. Some 1.2 million people signed Greenpeace’s palm oil petition, businesses committed to taking the issue more seriously and it raised awareness among the general public about palm oil’s devastating consequences.

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That success also meant the campaign won the the Video award at the 2019 Marketing Week Masters Awards. It was also highly commended in the Charities and Non-profit category and was shortlisted for PR and Brand Storytelling.

It was also one of the campaigns that helped its creative agency Mother win Agency of the Year.

The ad was launched in August but it was the decision to partner with supermarket Iceland that helped it go viral, notching up more than 80 million views of the film (despite minimal paid media), 8 million engagements and more than 800 pieces of editorial coverage.

This helped Greenpeace achieve its goal of raising awareness of what palm oil is in the UK, which went up seven percentage points thanks to the ad – resulting in an extra 4.6 million people being made aware.

Schools also got in touch, with in excess of 1,000 asking Greenpeace for teaching materials on the subject. Companies also began taking the issue seriously, with Ocado launching a palm oil-free aisle, Selfridges getting rid of the ingredient in its own-label range and many others committing to sourcing sustainable palm oil.



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