Now all the Christmas adverts have landed, there’s the usual debate of who did it best? Who hit the nostalgia note just right? No matter your final answer, you have to note that the unlikely contender in all of this is Iceland. Prior to last week we probably wouldn’t have even thought of considering them in this debate. But now, thanks to a TV ban and the power of social media, here I am writing up a post about a cartoon rang’tan.

Attaining a ‘cult audience’

As someone who doesn’t own a TV, some advertising now passes me by. If a friend had told me that they had seen an Iceland Christmas advert on TV, I would most likely have shrugged and moved on. But, tell me that it’s been banned for ‘being too political’ and I’m there. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a child or an adult, we like things that make us feel like we’re part of a select crowd. We love to be ‘in the know’. Apple are the kings of this. In the 2017 fiscal year, they sold 216.76 million iPhones, but most iPhone users would tell you that they like the exclusivity of having an iPhone! Drinks lovers from across the globe flock to the Please Don’t Tell bar in New York and still think it’s a secret despite it being featured in marketing books worldwide. Once attained, this status is hard to lose, and that is a truly powerful thing.


Iceland has not yet achieved this status for the long term, and are unlikely to do so, but, being banned has likely been a blessing for them! Now, people who don’t typically fall into their target audience are considering the ethical pros and cons of other supermarkets. More than that they may have to occasionally admit that Iceland is not the worst place to do their shopping. Are the M&S and Waitrose customers any more likely to shop at Iceland for their Christmas Day feast? Probably not, but they might be more inclined to pop their heads through the door at another time.

We’re all children on the inside

The moment we’re told we’re not allowed to do or see something, we immediately search it out. Badly kept secrets are one of the best tools marketers have for creating almost cult-like followings for brands. It’s the same impulse that makes us do things we know are slightly risky as children. If our parents say not to climb that branch of a tree because we might fall, what do we do? Of course, we climb the tree, and then most likely fall too.


I’m not saying the Iceland advert isn’t great. It made even the most cynical of us took pause and thought a little harder about what was in our favourite products. My question is whether it would have amassed 5.1 million views on Youtube and whether we’d still be talking about it this far after the fact if it hadn’t been deemed unsuitable for TV? We all know that social media is forever, it’s drummed into the youth and it’s something those of us who work on Twitter sometimes dread. As the power of old TV fades the immortality of the internet draws more people in each and every day.

In a year’s time, people will most likely have forgotten about this year’s Sainsbury’s and John Lewis adverts, but it’ll be interesting to see if we’re still talking about this.