Meet Rang-Tan: The political ape destined to be kept from the spotlight

Written By Lucy Welsh | 


Image Credit: Iceland Foods #NoPalmOilChristmas

At the time of writing, an advert posted by Iceland has over 4.7 million views on Youtube, but absolutely no views on television. Why? Because it was banned for being too political. The advertisement that took the form of a children’s cartoon and accompanying poem, was created by Iceland to highlight the consequences of the use of palm oil in many products including soap, Oreo cookies and laundry detergent. An adorable Orangutan, aptly named Rang-tan, visits a little girl in her room. She is asked to leave but the little girl soon learns that palm oil has led to the death of her mother and the destruction of her home, so she allows her to stay.

Whether or not the advert should have been banned is a divisive matter, but I want to set the record straight:

The first issue I see is the phrase ‘too political’ being thrown about with regards to Iceland’s ‘controversial’ advert. Conveniently, the UK Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has a wonderfully long list of criteria for adverts and their political agenda to be marked against. What I found most interesting about this was that


“it wasn’t the overall message of the advert that got it banned, rather that it was ‘promoting the interests of a party or other group of persons organised, in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, for political ends.”


Ultimately, this boils down to the fact that Iceland collaborated with Greenpeace in order to create Rang-tan and promote her story to the general public. Personally, I think that the message is beautifully presented and was clueless about Greenpeace’s involvement until I began researching for this piece.

It seems a real shame to ban an advert for its involvement with an organisation with a political agenda, especially when we are often force fed party-political broadcasts around the time of every election. While these broadcasts are exempt from the political broadcasting rules, it still feels somewhat ironic that an educational advertisement is banned for pushing a political message.


Image Credit: Iceland Foods #NoPalmOilChristmas


Politics aside, while I personally think the advert is beautifully crafted, I’m not really a fan of its tone. While the message is important and its delivery is clever, Christmas adverts are supposed to be festive and fun. Anyone who knows me will be able to confirm that I get far too excited about the John Lewis adverts every year, and believe that Christmas is only really beginning when the Coca Cola advert  is first broadcast on tv.

In my opinion, if Christmas adverts are going to include a cute animal – and let’s face it, Rang-tan is particularly adorable – then these adverts should take the form of John Lewis’ 2014 Monty the Penguin advert or perhaps Sainsbury’s Mog’s Christmas Calamity ad from 2015. These adverts were light-hearted, fun and festive: they carried a theme of Christmas throughout the holiday season, a season where children are, arguably, more exposed to advertisements than any other time of the year.


“If this is the case, I can’t help but think that cartoons of Orangutans dying because of children’s chocolates and shampoo is a little inappropriate for the time of year.”


If I had to make the decision on whether or not to broadcast the advert, that would be the deciding factor for me, not its association with Greenpeace.

Overall, I’m not so sure that Rang-tan should be kept from our screens. With the global production of palm oil rising from 56.38 metric tonnes in 2012, to 69.6 metric tonnes in 2018, there is clearly a growing issue with the product that the general public is not fully aware of.


“An advert that is less aggressive and more educational, which allows both adults and children to understand the damage caused by palm oil products should be welcomed and encouraged, regardless of who Iceland collaborates with.”


But that’s where I draw the line.

As a passionate fan of disgustingly cheesy Christmas adverts, films and television, I cannot comprehend why the company believed that it was the season to broadcast an advert with such heavy undertones and no Christmas message. At the end of the day, Christmas is a time for spreading joy and to expose children to this type of message is – in my eyes at least – a little inappropriate.

So, are Rang-tan and her story too political? I find myself inclined to disagree. People need to know just what these products are doing to such beautiful animals, even if it does push them out of their comfort zone. Just keep her away from my Christmas ads, please.