Will the Real Shell Please Stand Up?
Throughout my time on social media, I have never come across a more elaborately planned hoax or deception than what took place recently surrounding Greenpeace and fuel tycoon, Shell. It was so elaborately executed and layered that even this social media guru mistook the hoax accounts to be those of Shell itself.
It all started with a video posted on YouTube in June. The event was made to look like a Shell corporate party celebrating the company’s new oil rigs in the Arctic. During the event, a miniature oil well drink dispenser had an unexpected and uncontrolled explosion, saturating an elderly woman with the dark liquid. The video was made to look like it was taken without permission as the camera man was escorted out by security.
This then lead to the hashtag #shellfail going viral. The details are quite elaborate, but from there a fake Twitter account and a website that looked like Shell’s were both created. (Warning: The content on that page is not being censored and includes vulgarity). People were encouraged to submit their own ideas for Shell’s new marketing campaign in the Arctic on this website, which resulted in a myriad of user-generated negative ads towards Shell to flood the website. Greenpeace, along with a group called Yes Men, took claim for the elaborate hoax. At the same time, a fake Shell account tweeted to the public to stop or they would have to involve their legal team – another layer to the elaborate hoax.
What a PR disaster.
I worked in the convenience store industry for some time in my career. During my time there, I managed the BP oil spill for 50 convenience stores that sold BP fuel, and had to navigate the waters of someone impersonating the company’s brand on social media. Both were challenging experiences that lent themselves to great learning opportunities. However, this Greenpeace hoax was something different. This hoax had multiple layers that made it more believable that it was the real Shell. I have had multiple discussions since this PR debacle. Was this appropriate or legal for Greenpeace to do? Does this actually help or hurt their cause based on how they went about doing it?
SOUND OFF: Hindsight is always 20/20. The BP oil spill will become and remain a PR case study for years to come. However, looking at what took place with Shell, what are your thoughts? Does Greenpeace’s approach and how they went about the elaborate hoax help or hurt them and their cause? How should Shell have handled the situation?