Oil brand Shell really needs no help embarrassing itself. Their 2012 Arctic drilling program was so inept (including a rig grounding and a ship fire) that even the U.S. government said they screwed up. But Greenpeace decided to go ahead and give them a hand anyway.
Following their disastrous Alaskan campaign, Shell packed up and moved their Arctic drilling program to Russia, in a joint venture with state owned energy company, Gazprom. Greenpeace wanted to get the word out that Shell’s assault on the Arctic was far from over. What better place to do that than at Sunday’s F1 Shell Belgium Grand Prix, Shell’s biggest PR blitz of the year? Greenpeace International set up remote-controlled banners. The banners, which read “SaveTheArctic.org,” then popped up during the winner’s ceremony, as the German national anthem played. The second banner popped up just after an angry official removed the first one. Much angry crumpling of the second banner followed.
Video of the incident, entitled “Shell’s priceless F1 moment” went viral on YouTube, before F1 management demanded it be removed for “copyright complaints” just before it hit 240,000 views. The reaction to the video should only fuel Shell’s embarrassment. As Greenpeace International Arctic campaigner Ben Ayliffe put it, “Bernie Ecclestone and Shell might know how to fill a racetrack, but they clearly have no idea how social media works. Hundreds of thousands of people have seen the moment Shell’s Arctic plans were uncovered at the Grand Prix, and removing the video will only encourage thousands more to laugh at the company too.”
Indeed, the video has been reposted by myriad other users, and is available at Vimeo and on countless blogs. Shell’s miscalculated reaction to the YouTube post will only add fuel to the fire of public ridicule. You’d think that a company that spends million on branding and PR would know better, but I guess there’s no underestimating Shell’s incompetence.