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Shell’s Arctic Ready Campaign: Epic Social Media Fail?

If you go to the Arctic Ready website, you will see a site very similar to Shell’s main corporate website. The Arctic Ready site recently ran a competition asking the public to suggest captions for their next advertising campaign. When scrolling through the ads you see that the public have clearly hijacked the campaign, turning against Shell and coming up with ads such as the below …

A company’s worst nightmare right? An attempt to engage your audience by encouraging user generated content gone horribly wrong!

So what happens next? Go see what the company is saying on Twitter of course!

Related: What Can Kellogg’s QR Code Campaign Teach Us About Marketing?

Shell’s social media team on Twitter

On Twitter we find the @ShellisPrepared account which states that it is Shell’s social media team. On it are a string of tweets saying that Shell doesn’t endorse these ads and are working to take them down.

There are also numerous tweets insisting on the authenticity of the account. It appears, upon reviewing the tweets, that the social media team is in fact maintained by temps and interns who are clueless as to how to stop the tide of negative user generated content…

On return to the Arctic Ready site we see more ads with captions pointing out how the Shell marketing team is failing at their jobs to keep on top of the situation …

So all in all it looks to be an absolutely epic failure of a social media campaign, one which colleges will use as a case studies to prompt students to figure out what Shell should have done when things started to go south.

Related: Beware The Promoted Tweet: Hashtags Gone Wrong!

However all is not what it seems …

The above co-ordinated campaign is not a failure at all, it is in fact a brilliantly executed and highly successful campaign run, not by Shell, but by Greenpeace, who have turned away from their hippy roots and taken a step into the online world in their fight against the major oil company.

Greenpeace have put together a well thought out online campaign which has resulted in a massive increase in online conversation and which has even been covered by major news corporations including Forbes, the Huffington Post and the Guardian.

Shell has announced that it does not plan to sue Greenpeace, most likely realising that legal action on their part would draw even more attention to the campaign.

So, what can we learn from Greenpeace?

Some advanced planning goes a long way towards the success of your campaign. If you are going to run an online campaign, ensure that you display consistency across your platforms, as Greenpeace have done with both their parody website and parody Twitter account.

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Sarah Ryan is an Online Marketing & Communications manager with 7 years experience. After being located in San Francisco for 2 years, Sarah returned to Dublin in early 2012.

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  •  Hi Sarah

    Interesting piece, but when you say that Greenpeace “have turned away from their hippy roots and taken a step into the online world in their fight against the major oil company”, it doesn’t quite tell the full picture.

    Greenpeace were very early adopters in terms of social media and viral campaigns. For example, Dave Walsh from Wexford has been a web editor on their expeditions for over eight years now, sending blogs, photographs and multimedia back to base and around the world, often in dangerous conditions. See e.g.

  • Sarah – very well thought out and researched post. The tactics employed by Greenpeace seem right in line with the tactics described in Ryan Holiday’s book, Trust Me, I’m Lying.  It will be interesting to see if Shell decides to “take one for the team” and use the negatives to turn into some positive for them. 

  • Something exactly like this happened to the Chevrolet brand back in 2006, except for GM it was a real campaign that got a little out of control rather than a brilliantly subversive social message orchestrated by a third party. GM allowed the public to create commercials for the 2007 Tahoe using stock footage combined with user-generated copy. Some of the entries were less than flattering, to put it mildly. If I recall correctly, GM’s PR team acknowledged the negativity and then left it alone.

  • Hi Todd,

    Thanks for commenting. I think Shell will be following the same lines as the GM PR team, as they have acknowledged what is going on, but don’t seem to plan on taking any action – for fear it will only keep the Greenpeace campaign in the public space for even longer.


  • Thanks Warrren. Not familiar with that book, must give it a look!

  • Thanks for the comment. I didn’t mean to say that this was Greenpeace’s first foray into social media, just to say they had come a long way from their original ‘hippy roots’. Thanks for the link, will definitely check it out.

  • Great tips Rhett 🙂 In today’s competitive world, getting a job is very challenging especially for young job seekers. Having an internship experience is important prior to your chosen field. It is just one of those things you need to have before employers will even consider looking at your resume.

  • Thank you Sian for your kind words, its good to be here.

  • Thanks for your expert advice Ashesh – I’m still ios and don’t want to switch. I look forward to your next post and Happy New Year

  • perhaps a “9 reasons to swap to Android from iOS” post could follow to provide a balanced view? 🙂

  • oh, I spoke too soon, I see you already have a “7 reasons why Android is still better than iOS” article… albeit a year or so ago

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