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Media and Communication
Response paper 3: Persuasion and Advertisement
Student: Rosa Stienstra
Teacher: Sarah Dellmann
The Girl and the Ran-tan: Metaphor for Deforestation Linked to Palm-Oil
Following their decision to become the first major supermarket in the United Kingdom to remove palm
oil from all their own-label products, Iceland Foods decided to focus their Christmas campaign this year
on deforestation caused by the production of palm oil and the devastating impact on the critically
endangered orangutan (Iceland Foods Ltd, 2018; Guardian, 2018). Part of the campaign
#NoPalmOilChristmas is a video featuring the story of a little girl who finds a young orangutan in her
room. After finding out that the orangutan had to flee his habitat in the rainforest due to humans
destroying it for palm oil production, she decides to take action (Iceland Foods Ltd, 2018). The
advertisement, originally a political campaign produced by Greenpeace, was meant to be broadcasted on
national television in the United Kingdom. However, due to association with Greenpeace, the
advertisement was banned from television because it breached the political ad prohibition in the
Communications Act 2003 (Guardian, 2018; Iceland Foods Ltd, 2018). This paper will analyze the
persuasive character of Iceland Food’s Christmas advertisement of 2018, by first conducting a literature
research on persuasion and advertisement, after which an analysis of the video will be carried out.
According to Williams (1980) ‘advertisement developed into an institutionalized system of
commercial information and persuasion’ (Williams, 1980, p.170 as cited in Hodkinson, 2010, p.162).
Persuasion contributes to the process of shaping perceptions and is usually attempted through a textual
component, as well as a visual aspect. Moreover, when analyzing persuasion in advertisement, it is of
paramount importance to have a critical approach towards the content itself (Jowett & O’Donnell, 2012).
Additionally, one way to change ones perception is by using Aristoteles’ principle pathos, which means
emotional appeal (Bem, 1970; Brinton, 1988). One method to create an emotional appeal is by making
use of ‘psychophysical numbing’: the discrepancy in emotional reaction towards discrete stories around
one individual will tend to be more effective than speaking about an abstract homogenous group
(Fetherstonhaugh, 1997). Next, the advertisement will be analyzed using the following concepts: the
content, the visual aspect and the textual component.
Firstly, Iceland Food’s Christmas advertisement is persuasive due to the characteristics of the
content. The producers make use of psychophysical numbing by only featuring two characters,
representing a large group. The orangutan symbolizes the animal population that either dies or loses its
habitat as a consequence of deforestation for the production of palm oil in South East Asia. The little girl
embodies the human population that, according to the advertisement, should act against deforestation
for the production of palm oil. Moreover, both characters are a young version of the species they
represent, contributing to the appeal of emotions (Joanna Kinsey, 1987). By using psychophysical
numbing, the producers of the video try to use pathos as a form of persuasion, to appeal to sympathy,
sadness and compassion.
Secondly, the visuals in the advertisement contribute to the persuasive character. To start with,
the advertisement is an animation video which causes the story to be told in a simplified manner. By
using animation to tell story, the environment and circumstances are only limited by the imagination of
the storywriters. For example, in the video, the little girl asks the orangutan the following question:
“why were you in my bedroom? I really want to know” (0:27-1:32, Iceland Foods, 2018). Although
monkeys and human beings do not speak the same language, the video implies that the orangutan
answers by telling the little girl his life-story and that she receives the conveyed message of the monkey.
Also, the fact that an orangutan came all the way from a rainforest South-East Asia into a little girl’s
room, respectably in Western Europe, is questionable in the first place. However, since the whole video
is animated, the credibility and the accuracy of the story are not seen as relevant because viewers are
impacted by the appeal of emotion, the pathos. Moreover, the colors of the animation contribute to the
appeal of pathos because they change according to different emotions emphasized in the advertisement.
From 00:00-0:32, the colors are bright and vibrant, showing a little girl’s in bedroom and orange
orangutan climbing around, contributing to a delightful and kind atmosphere. At 0:32, the colors of the
video change to black and white while zooming in on the eyes of the orangutan; he remains orange. The
change to monochrome implies going back in time, as well as emphasizing that this part of the video
contains negative emotions. At 0:56 the plot changes, after the orangutan tells his life-story and the
deduction of him entering the bedroom of the little girl, bright and vibrant pigments are used again.
Instead of sending the orangutan away, the little girl decides to operate immediately and try to save the
home of the orangutan, by sharing his story.
Lastly, the text in the advertisement contributes to the persuasive character. One of the most
powerful components of the advertisement is the voice-over, telling the story both from the perspective
of the girl and the orangutan. It is particularly effective because the text used for the voice-over is
written in the form of a poem; it makes use of repetition as well as rhyme. The video starts with the
following text from the perspective of the little girl (00:00) ‘there is a Rang-tan in my bedroom and I
don’t know what to do. She plays with all my teddies and keeps borrowing my shoe” (Passion Animation
Studios, 2018). The first part of the sentence is repeated at 00:17. Later it is also used to tell the story
from the perspective of the orangutan (0:33), replacing Ran-tan with ‘human’ and bedroom with ‘forest’:
‘There’s a human in my forest and I don’t know what to do. He destroys all of our trees for your food
and your shampoo’ (Passion Animation Studios, 2018). Equal to the part of the story told from the
perspective of the little girl, at 0:41 the first part of the previous sentence is repeated: ‘There’s a human
in my forest and I don’t know what to do’ (Passion Animation Studios, 2018). Both example sentences
given, show next to repetition, also the use of rhyme. Every second sentence in the poem rhymes with
the first before. Next to the voice over, text is also used in a visual form. The use of rhyme, as well as
repetition both contribute to the persuasive message of the video. After the animation, the
advertisement ends with the following message, addressing the environmental problem with a detailed
argument (1:21): ‘dedicated to the 25 Orangutans we lose every day’ (Passion Animation Studios, 2018).
This text contributes to the appeal of emotion by directly addressing the viewer giving a feeling of guilt.
The video ends with displaying the connection between this Christmas advertisement and the
supermarket Iceland Foods (1:24): ‘Until all palm oil causes zero rainforest destruction, we are removing
palm oil from all our own label products. Iceland’ (Passion Animation Studios, 2018). This last text
conveys the underlying and persuasive message of the whole advertisement: care for the environment
by buying our products (Passion Animation Studios, 2018).
To conclude, Iceland Food’s Christmas advertisement of 2018 can be labeled as persuasive due to
the following elements. Firstly, the content is persuasive due to the use of psychophysical numbing as
well as the young age of the characters. Both characteristics add to the appeal to emotion, a tool in the
process of persuasion. Secondly, the visuals in the advertisement are(a) due to the use of animation and
change of color, both adding to the appeal to emotion. Lastly, the used text contributes to the(a)
character of the advertisement due to the repetitive character of the voice over, as well as its rhyme,(a).
Moreover, the visual text directly addresses the viewer, contributing the pathos and therefore persuasion
as well. On a critical note, the literature often fails to deliver specific tools and characteristics of
persuasive advertisement. Nevertheless, after a broad analysis and understanding of the video, it can be
labeled as a persuasive advertisement.
References
Brinton, A. (1998) Pathos and the "Appeal to Emotion": An Aristotelian Analysis. History of
Philosophy Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Jul., 1988), pp. 207-219
Fetherstonehaugh, D. (1997) Insensitivity to the Value of Human Life: A Study of
Psychophysical Numbing. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty. 14:283–300
Guardian. 2018. Iceland to be first UK supermarket to cut palm oil from own-brand products.
Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/10/iceland-to-be-first-uksupermarket-to-cut-palm-oil-from-own-brand-products
Hodkinson, P. (2010). Media, Cultura and Society. London: Sage Publications.
Iceland Foods Ltd. (2018). Rang-tan's Story. Retrieved from: https://www.iceland.co.uk/
environment/
Iceland Foods Ltd. (2018). The Christmas advert that never made it to TV. Retrieved from: http://
about.iceland.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/The-Christmas-advert-that-never-made-it-toTV.pdf
Jowett, G.J & O’Donnell, V. (2012). “What is propaganda, and how does it differ from
persuasion?” Propaganda and persuasion. (1-27). London: Sage Publications.
Kinsey, J. (1987). The Use of Children in Advertising and the Impact of Advertising Aimed at
Children. International Journal of Advertising. Volume 6, - Issue 2
Passion Animation Studios (2018). Rang-tan: the story of dirty palm oil. Retrieved from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdpspllWI2o
Williams, R. (1980). Advertising: The magic system. Problems in Materialism and Culture.
London: Verso, 170–195.
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