Greenpeace’s “Arctic Ready” campaign fooled many as it hijacked the Shell brand in protest at the oil giant's polar exploration for oil.
In June, a video was posted on YouTube titled “#ShellFAIL: Private Arctic Launch Party Goes Wrong” by the username of ‘kstr3l’, which supposedly depicted the ‘widow’ of an oil rig designer getting sprayed in a malfunction by the drink-dispensing ice sculpture at a party thrown by the oil giant.
In reality, the woman hit with the cola stream is an 84-year-old Occupy activist called Dorli Rainey and the video was a hoax by anti-Shell activists Greenpeace and The Yes Men as part of their “Arctic Ready” campaign created with the help of Yes Lab, New York. The humorous video has been viewed over 800,000 times.
It was a campaign that unfolded online with the aim to highlight Shell’s leading role in exploring the Arctic for new oil reserves. Greenpeace and The Yes Men created a near identical version of Shell’s own website called Arctic Ready and packed it with content that savages the oil company albeit in the muted language of so many corporate websites.
It even included “Let’s Go” an interactive component allowing visitors to caption photos of animals and the Arctic supposedly provided by Shell.
To add to the PR nightmare, they also created a Twitter feed purporting to be the Shell Social Media Team @ShellisPrepared. The parody account appeared to be run by an inept social media manager, pretending to be angry at users who shared content generated by the “Let’s Go” ad creator and frantically calling for them to be taken down.
Tweets like “Our team is working overtime to remove inappropriate ads. Please stop sharing them” and "Linking to any ads at arcticready.com/social/gallery will get your name forwarded to #Shell legal" led many users to believe it was a case of a massive social media blunder. There is of course an obligatory Facebook page to go with the campaign (which doesn’t have a significant number of ‘Likes’ at the moment).
Many were duped by the campaign, but the ‘hijack’ has also received criticism. Matthew Yeomans argues on the Guardian’s Sustainable Business Blog why the campaign can’t be judged as a true social media success: “Social media campaigning is excellent at this type of push the button activism. But the Arctic Ready website can't mobilise that precisely because the site does such a good job replicating Shell's own identity.”
Martin Robbins writes in a New Statesman piece: “I’ve nothing against parodies – I’ve written a few myself, and they can be an incredibly useful and effective way of skewering an argument. These hoaxes are something much more cynical and dangerous.”
“The real villain here is Greenpeace. This is an NGO that thinks it is acceptable to lie to the public, to lie to bloggers and journalists, and to then intimidate writers with threatening emails warning of legal action. This absolutely is not okay.”
In an interview with Forbes, Travis Nichols of the Greenpeace media team talks about the hijack: ““Arctic Ready” is Shell’s motto. All we’ve done is take their facts and highlighted them. It’s identity correction. It’s important that you don’t lie. You take the facts and put them out without Shell’s spin. They’ve greenwashed their page. We’ve done the opposite. We took the language they used and flipped it.”
Tell us what you think about the campaign on our Facebook page | Read about how Greenpeace filmed a homeless polar bear on the streets of London here.
Image: The Arctic Ready website that appeared online may have looked like a Shell creation, but in fact it was Greenpeace hijacking the brand in protest at Shell's polar exploration for oil. The site asked people to send in spoof Shell adverts. See more in the gallery below.
Video: Footage from a Shell party turned out to be a hoax by Greenpeace and The Yes Men.
Image: Greenpeace set up a parody Twitter account aiming to mimick an inept social media manager.