Shell’s “Let’s Go” Campaign – Brought to You by Greenpeace

The other day, a good friend of mine retweeted something that was originally posted by Social Media Team @ShellisPrepared. It caught my attention for two reasons. One, this friend doesn’t make a habit of retweeting a lot of things. Two, the original tweet implied that Shell Oil had been the victim of a social media attack.

I went to the Twitter profile of @ShellisPrepared to learn more. Things didn’t look good. Every single tweet mentioned something about “subversive” or “inappropriate” ads that they were trying desperately to remove. My immediate thought was: “Somebody at Shell doesn’t know how to properly use social media”. I would never have known about the ads that they wanted to take down if it wasn’t for them tweeting about it. Wouldn’t it have been smarter to quietly shut down the website, remove the offensive ads, and keep it quiet?

Naturally, I was curious about just what those ads were. The @ShellisPrepared profile contained a link to their new campaign, which appeared to be called “Arctic Ready”. I rushed over to their website. hoping to get a glimpse of the ads before they shut down the website that contained them.

What I saw was a train-wreck of a marketing campaign. There was an easy to use “ad generator” on this page. Anyone who wanted to could choose from one of several photos: swimming polar bears, an arctic fox, a bird with some baby birds, a floating iceberg, and more. Next, you could type in a slogan. The phrase “Let’s Go.” would be automatically added. The best ones would be placed on billboards. This was basically a way to “crowd source” some ideas for their ads.

It was immediately apparent that no one at Shell was reviewing the ads that people created before they went “live” onto the website. Every single ad was negative. Slogans like “Birds are like sponges … for oil!” and “Some say catastrophe, we say opportunity” were generated. Nothing here was positive. People either really hate Shell Oil, or emphatically don’t want oil companies to drill in the Arctic.

Other ads pointed out how badly Shell failed at using social media. Slogans like “We still haven’t noticed we are being trolled”, and “The ad generator is not down for maintenance” and “This is the biggest marketing fail in the history of failing” appeared. The internet has a plethora of trolls, and many of them found their way to the ad generator. Shell got picked on for “not knowing how to internet”, so to speak.

I scrolled through several pages of these ads, laughing all the way. Then, I thought, “Wait a minute! How am I still able to access these ads if Shell is frantically trying to take them down?” It turned out that there was a very good reason for this. The website isn’t run by Shell Oil. It was created by Greenpeace. The entire purpose was to create a user generated attack against Shell Oil.

To me, the most fascinating part of this entire hoax was that no one questioned it. People didn’t question the idea that a company like Shell Oil would be inept enough to set up an ad generator, that anyone could use, and then fail to monitor the contents that people created. Nobody questioned the sight of a big company failing with their use of Twitter.