Shell Oil was attacked by Greenpeace and the Yes Men back in early summer in a sophisticated, cynical social media strategy. One of the key features was creating videos and a website that looked so much like the real Shell ads and website that it was bound to confuse.
I predicted that this would not be the last of this sort of campaign. Sure enough, now ExxonMobil is being targeted in this particularly dark and cynical ad-lookalike. It’s called “Exxon hates your children.” It does seem to have the almost redeeming qualities that the anti-Shell campaign had of being first, original, exceedingly clever and somewhat lighthearted despite the very serious intent.
Does it work? If measured by interest and views and people like me commenting on it, it works very well. The Greenpeace website got 4 million views and their fake Shell twitter account got 6 million followers. One Greenpeace staffer said: “It was a way to repackage the issue and to take Shell’s ‘Let’s Go’ advertising campaign and subvert it in a way that made sure our campaign about saving the Arctic reached a wider audience.”
The question of course here is, what are you to do if someone high-jacks your brand, creates spoof ads mimicing yours, and even dupes people into thinking their sites or tweets are from the company? The answer I suggested in my PR Strategist article was: not much. Grin and bear it. Monitor and work to make sure facts are accurate.
I tend to believe that the long term reaction to this sort of thing will not be positive for those crafting these campaigns. Certainly, they will have their true believers behind them–but they’ll be behind them no matter what they do. Battles for public opinion always (or they should) focus on those in the middle, those who can be swayed one way or the other, the saveables vs, the saints or sinners. What will those in the middle think of this approach? That is is unfair, devious, dishonest, lacking in transparency?
Ever the optimist, that’s my hope.
However, if it appears this tactic is successful. I have a suggestion for Shell, ExxonMobil and all others victimized by these reputation hoodlums: do a spoof on them. Hmmm, I can imagine it now. The scripting session would be a real kick.