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Home » Feature, News, social media screw-up

#ShellFAIL video shows Big Oil no longer an easy target for social-savvy activists

Submitted by Bernhard Warner on June 8, 2012 – 7:04 amNo Comment

A jerky video ostensibly filmed inside a swanky, closed-door event hosted by oil giant Shell goes viral this week, racking up more than 400,000 views in less than 48 hours, scores plenty of dishy headlines and gives birth to the hashtag #ShellFAIL. Another case of Big Oil being foiled by social-savvy activists? Yes and No. “No,” as in the Yes Men – that famous band of hoaxters were at it again and they somehow allow the oil giant to come away from this one squeaky clean. 

The #ShellFail video first surfaced from the Occupy Seattle people on Wednesday. From there it went to Gawker and other sites who crowned it a massive PR fail for having allowed a camera-phone wielding spy into an event to capture – watch for the metaphor here – a cocktail dispenser shaped like an oil rig, spurt out its cocktaily goodness (quite possibly rum and Coke?) on party guests. Judge for yourself:

The problem is the video had such poor acting that immediately YouTubers started smelling a hoax. Big media bit, but soon after conducting a bit of sleuthing they all concluded in updated stories that it was all staged. Shell meanwhile doused the flames, issuing a terse shoot-down statement that Reuters picked up on its Tumblr blog. It read:

“Recently groups that oppose Shell’s plans in offshore Alaska have posted a video that purport to show Shell employees at an event at the Seattle Space Needle. Shell did not host, nor participate in an event at the Space Needle and the video does not involve Shell or any of its employees. We continue to focus on a safe exploration season in 2012.”

Crisis averted? Apparently so. Shell was quick to jump on this. Well, quick as in 24-hours-later quick. Still, the timing of its response was effective, occurring just as the online press was smelling a rat. It’s shoot-down leaves no doubt that this is nothing more than a badly executed hoax.
Big Oil has come a long way. It wasn’t too long ago that it was routinely getting blindsided by these kinds of activists stunts. We’re just two years removed from the Deepwater Horizon incident when major oil companies had no kind of social media monitoring capabilities in place, nor did they think it all that necessary.For those looking for more detail on this, we cover the many social missteps of Big Oil in #FAIL.
Now, Big Oil is actually getting recognized for its social media savvy, for relaying to the public, gasp, comprehensive corporate reportage about their many activities. Perhaps the Yes Men and their merry pranksters should take notes.

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