Maybe in retrospect Shell should not have injuncted Greenpeace for disrupting its drilling rigs heading for the Arctic.
For all it has done has made its opponents more creative in the way they will campaign against the oil giant.
Late last week, there was widespread confusion across the American media, the internet, including Facebook and Twitter after what at first seemed a crass, arrogant launch party by Shell to celebrate the launch of its drilling rig, the Kulluk, which is headed to the Arctic.
The lavish launch party, called “New Frontiers” was held at the top of Seattle’s swish Space Needle tower, where lobster and caviar was served to the guests.
To mark the great occasion, Shell had built a small replica of the Kulluk and had supposedly invited the widow of the man who designed the rig to symbolically “tap the Arctic” by filling her glass with liquor poured from the top of the model rig.
But it all went horribly wrong, with the onlookers watching in horror as the so-called guest of honour was continuously sprayed, as they could not cut the flow off (sound familiar BP?). Shell staff then used stuffed polar bears to clean up the spill.
The person recording the debacle on his mobile phone was prevented filming any more, giving the impression that the events were not meant to be filmed.
At first activists and the media could not believe the footage they were seeing. “If Shell can’t even handle a three-foot replica of a rig that pumps booze, how is the company going to fare in the Arctic deep?” chucked Tree hugger.
But it was all a spoof. Most of the guests and dignitaries, it turned out, were actors and activists posing as Shell officials.
The video went viral and has now been watched just shy of 650,000 times. At one stage it was the top spot on Reddit and the #2 spot on Youtube.
Then the spoof got even better as the Yes Men sent out a press release on Shell’s behalf, threatening anyone who reposted the video and attacking the activists’ brand-new ArcticReady.com website.
The website includes a children’s video game called “Angry Bergs”, where you have to defeat the icebergs which are stopping Shell exploiting the Arctic.
There were also spoof adverts showing polar bears swimming in the Arctic.
Once again the Yes Men had struck, working in collaboration with Greenpeace. The following day Greenpeace and the Yes Men responded to calls from confused journalists as a live Twitter feed of the #shellfail prank played across a large screen on the wall.
Greenpeace has always been media-savvy and had just used new media to devastating effect to humour and humiliate Shell.
As the LA Times noted “In another era, anti-drilling activists would have been out at sea, stringing banners from Shell’s drilling rigs and swooping in their boats among the Shell vessels poised to steam out of Seattle toward the Arctic. But this is the age of new media, when a video is worth a thousand ships.”
“This injunction we are faced with demanded some new thinking, and I guess the tactics needed to counter an international oil campaign have to be creative,” Greenpeace’s USA spokesman James Turner told the paper. “Social media offers us the opportunity to use humor and inventiveness to reach people in a way that hopefully entertains and engages them, while making a serious point at the same time.”
Despite the injunction, Greenpeace will be shadowing Shell’s drilling rigs with one of its ships, the Esperanza, trying to document the oil giant impacts on wildlife, including an unmanned drone for aerial footage.
Shell meanwhile calls the video “fraudulent”.
That is the word that comes to mind for many people when they think of Shell’s whole Arctic drilling campaign.