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Let’s Go! Arctic is a mock advertising campaign created by Greenpeace and The Yes Men in June 2012. The hoax consisted of an elaborately staged gaffe at a fake event arranged on behalf of Shell Oil Company, a mock website purported as the company’s social media hubsite and a fake press release alleging that Shell’s lawyers are considering legal actions against the involved parties.
On June 7th, 2012, YouTuber kstr3l uploaded a video titled “#ShellFAIL: Private Arctic Launch Party Goes Wrong” depicting what is self-described as an “epic PR FAIL” during a private Shell Oil Company farewell party for the departure of its arctic rigs at the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington. The video allegedly shows an ill-timed malfunction of a model rig that was supposed to pour drinks but ends up leaking uncontrollably over an elderly woman, leading her to shriek amidst awkward silence.
The video was instantly picked up on the same day by news and topical blogs, as well as Occupy Movement-related accounts on Twitter. On the following day, Redditor loonytoad submitted a link to the YouTube video, which reached the frontpage of the site, and YouTuber DiogenesGivesBack uploaded a Dubstep of the original video.
By early morning on June 8th, the video had been watched more than 500,000 times, generated over 1,000 comments on YouTube and thousands of tweets containing the hashtag “#shellFAIL” or keywords “shell party” and “oil.” As of June 20th, the video has gained more than 718,000 views.
On June 8th, the culture-jamming collective The Yes Men Matthew Martell uploaded a YouTube video titled “#ShellFAIL – Viral Campaigners Revealed,” which explained YouTuber kstr3l’s Shell FAIL video as part of a hoax staged by the Yes Men, Greenpeace and members of the Occupy movement to raise awareness of the arctic drilling. Greenpeace also published a blog post with a thorough documentation of its viral spread.
That same day, a satire website purported as the global oil and gas company Shell’s social media site was launched at Arcticready.com, a description of the campaign, as well as a custom caption generator and an image gallery. Clad with tongue-in-cheek descriptions advocating the oil companies’ arctic drilling missions, the site allowed visitors to create, share and rate their own image macros centered around the theme of Shell’s arctic drilling operations. On June 12th, the website introduced a flash-based parody game of Angry Birds titled “Angry Bergs” in the Just for Kids page.
The overwhelming majority of the top-rated image submissions featured satirIcal or witty messages against the drilling operations in the Arctic. As of June 20th, more than 8,800 image macros have been submitted to the gallery.
Fake Press Release
Later that day, The Yes Men published a fake press release ostensibly written on behalf of Shell saying that the company’s lawyers are considering formal action against unknown activists who staged and filmed the event. The statement was initially reported as valid by numerous tech news blogs, but soon became clear that it was another layer of hoax staged by the groups.
On January 12th, Dutch Royal Shell Inc. released a formal statement denying any involvement in the mock event at the Seattle Space Needle or issuing any legal threats.
“Recently groups that oppose Shell’s plans in offshore Alaska have posted a video that purports 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. A fake press release claiming that Shell is considering legal action following the launch of the video was also distributed to the media. We continue to focus on a safe exploration season in 2012."