Iceland says it had planned to air a version of Greenpeace animation "Rang-tan", created by Mother, as its Christmas campaign – but was forced to change course after Clearcast said it would be in breach of the BCAP Code on political advertising.
But since tweeting about its problems with airing the ad on TV – which focuses on the environmental impact of palm oil use in foods and its threat to orang-utan habitats – Iceland has reached millions of views of "Rang-tan".
"Rang-tan" has had more than 3.1 million views on YouTube alone, with a total 30 million aggregated views across social media, "predominantly on Twitter and Facebook", according to stats from Mother.
The film has been "reposted by loads of users with a lot of followers", said a spokesperson for the agency, helping it to gain views.
On Twitter, there have been at least 100,000 original posts, with celebrities adding their support for the ad including comedian and TV host James Corden, who tweeted he thinks "everyone should see it".
This commercial was banned from TV for being too political. I think everyone should see it x pic.twitter.com/ns2XnGSnv6— James Corden (@JKCorden) November 11, 2018
Meanwhile, presenter Julia Bradbury, famed for her love of the great outdoors, tweeted "It's crazy that the @IcelandFoods ad was banned for being 'too political' because it shows how deforestation for palm oil has brought orangutans to the brink of extinction."
Why why why? It's crazy that the @IcelandFoods ad was banned for being 'too political' because it shows how deforestation for palm oil, has brought orangutans to the brink of extinction.See it: https://t.co/FlXxNg0LZy or tap in 'iceland banned advert'.Showed my kids today. Share pic.twitter.com/W7npkG9S5I— Julia Bradbury (@JuliaBradbury) November 10, 2018
Actor Ralf Little tweeted: "Kudos to @IcelandFoods for taking the lead on this important climate issue - palm oil use killing 25 orangutans per day."
Kudos to @IcelandFoods for taking the lead on this important climate issue - palm oil use killing 25 orangutans per day. This advert banned on political grounds. Not sure who they think will be offended, so, feel free to RT. https://t.co/wH5a7XGGsA— Ralf Little (@RalfLittle) November 9, 2018
Stats from Mother show there have been more than 100,000 original posts on Twitter, while the original Iceland Facebook post with the film has been shared more than half a million times.
Traditional media includes at least 100 TV and radio clips about the ad, as well as 31 UK print newspaper cuttings and 126 online news links.
Iceland marketing director Neil Hayes said: "It’s been fantastic to see the story being widely shared and an overwhelmingly positive response for what is a really important message.
"We’ve been able to reach a huge number of customers without TV advertising, thanks to the level of support from campaigners, celebrities, the media and of course the public.
"We set out to raise awareness of an issue and even though this hasn’t happened in the way we’d initially planned, we ultimately managed to share the story far and wide."
Meanwhile, a Change.org petition to encourage the ad to be shown on television has so far topped 621,000 signatures.
Clearcast said its "concerns do not extend to the content or message of the ad", but that it contravenes the prohibition on political advertising because it is "by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature".
Iceland will now run a series of 10-second product ads from this Friday (16 November), starting by promoting its palm oil-free luxury mince pies.