Environmental activists posing as oil tycoons have managed to fool massive amounts of people with a well executed, social media hoax intended to raise awareness about Arctic drilling.
Greenpeace, with the help of legendary culture-jamming group The Yes Men, are making a social media splash today with their "Let's Go!" Shell campaign spoof, merely 6 weeks after fooling hundreds of thousands of people -- including many mainstream media reporters -- with the very same hoax.
- It all began on June 7, when a video featuring what appears to feature an “Epic PR Fail” at an “Exclusive Shell party” in Seattle was uploaded to YouTube by an Occupy Wall Street activist named Logan Price.
- The video, which shows an older woman getting blasted by a malfunctioning model rig, soon went viral accompanied by the hashtag #ShellFAIL.
The entire video was fake, staged and shot by the Yes Men's "Yes Lab" for Greenpeace.
Dozens of media outlets including Treehugger, Gothamist and the Seattle Post Intelligencer picked up the story immediately as it surged to the number one spot on Reddit.
Within hours of being uploaded, the video had even earned itself a dubstep remix.
At the same time, ArcticReady.com was simultaneously launched (but not yet promoted) by the activists.
The brand new spoof site, designed by to look remarkably similar to Shell's official website, included a social media ad generator and a children's video gamecalled Angry Bergs.
- But by early afternoon, the campaign was exposed as fake by Gawker's Adrian Chen who traced a domain name associated with the stunt back to another Yes Men prank.
Shell's representatives confirmed to him by email that they had no involvement with the events shown in the #ShellFAIL video.
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- Not to be discouraged, Yes Labs released a fake press release from "Shell" threatening to take legal action against the campaign's originator.
It was sent from the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, included a false quotes from a real company spokesperson and warned journalists against the "counterfeit website" at ArcticReady.com.
Once again, Greenpeace and Shell were trending. Once again, many fell for the stunt.
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- Approximately 24 hours after the campaign was launched, Greenpeace and the Yes Lab released blog posts and a video admitting their involvement in the hoax.
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- On June 14, Shell representatives released their own statement to further distance themselves from the campaign.
"Just in case there is any remaining doubt, Shell did not host, nor participate in an event at the Space Needle. The video does not involve Shell or any of its employees. The advertising contest is not associated with Shell, and neither is the site it’s on. And Shell did not file legal action in this matter. Our focus is on safely executing our operations," reads the release.