Advertising watchdog Clearcast has been forced to shut down its social media after staff were ‘threatened and abused’ following the Iceland advert ‘ban’.
The company’s head says it was overrun with abuse after the supermarket claimed it had banned their anti-palm oil Christmas advert.
Not only was it forced to take down its Facebook page, but it also had to remove staff pictures from its website after being bombarded with thousands of emails, tweets and calls.
Managing director Chris Mundy said: "We were certainly unprepared for the deluge of contact.
"We had to close our switchboard and subsequently took pictures of our team off the website (they had been circulating on Twitter ).
"We took our company Facebook page down entirely.
"It was intended to be a social bridge between staff and agencies, but it was overtaken by abusive comments."
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Iceland’s Christmas advert was banned from TV because it was ‘too political’
The advert tells the tale of a friendship between a young girl and a baby orangutan who’s fled the rainforest as it’s burned for palm oil.
The 90 second clip highlights the impact of palm oil on deforestation and follows Iceland’s decision to remove the product from all its own-label food by the end of the year.
However, Mr Mundy has now denied that Clearcast banned the advert from TV, explaining it doesn’t even have the authority to do so.
Instead, the decision was made by Clearcast’s Copy Committee comprised of representatives from the commercial channels.
Writing for industry advertising magazine Campaign, he wrote: "Clearcast isn’t a regulator; the Advertising Standards Authority and Ofcom are.
"We have no power to ban ads; we try to work with advertisers to get them to air.
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Clearcast denies it was behind the ban
"We had clearly told Iceland that the issue was related to the Greenpeace link. Neither we nor the broadcasters considered the ad itself political."
The 90-second animation which was narrated by actress Emma Thompson is on course to be the most watched Christmas advert ever.
The managing director said that he still hopes the broadcast encourages viewers to consider their palm oil usage.
He wrote: "Of course, the winner has been the environmental message that has been widely shared. If that changes behaviour, then that is a good thing.
"From Clearcast’s perspective, it’s a shame that the team has, to an extent, been collateral damage in getting the message out."
An online petition calling for the Christmas advert to be broadcast currently has more than 900,00 signatures, and has been signed by stars including Stephen Fry and Bill Bailey.