It had all the makings of yet another social media “fail” (think #cashforyou and #qantasluxury). A big corporation looking to crowdsource a marketing campaign, before everything goes horribly wrong and the whole thing turns into a PR disaster. Except this time it wasn’t true.

In a series of stunning hoaxes aimed at embarrassing petroleum giant Shell, environmentalist activists Greenpeace created an entire website and social media campaign encouraging users to “take a moment” and create a message promoting drilling in the Arctic. Greenthumbed Twitter users have deluged the site with images attacking Shell.

The website, which was launched in June, has sprung up again in recent days on Twitter, with some users and news sites believing the site to be legitimate Shell campaign. A blog on news site United Press International confessed yesterday that it had been hoaxed by the protest group.

The misguided trust is unsurprising. Greenpeace’s mock “Arctic Ready” website looks impressively authentic, complete with articles about how melting ice caps are providing opportunities to explore the Arctic Ocean.

A Twitter account has been set up to promote the campaign. The hoax has even gone so far as to pretend Shell was investigating the hacked contest.

“Shell Oil is crowdsourcing an ad campaign and hasn’t realized they’re being trolled … See it now before it’s taken down,” wrote @MylesNye.

“Shell just found out why you don’t let the internet write your ad campaign,” tweeted @jamesmasente.

Some of the most popular slogans, which are set on top of images of polar bears, icebergs and narwhales, are below:

Greenpeace, along with ad agency Yes Lab, claimed responsibility for the hoax last month, kicking things off with a “leaked” video of a Shell press conference which goes horribly wrong. That video went viral, receiving more than 750,000 views on YouTube.

“The event was a hoax, and so was the follow-up email and the website with its often hilarious-if-it-wasn’t-true fake Shell marketing copy,” they wrote on their blog.

Shell has been quick to distance itself from the campaign, releasing a statement on its website denying any involvment.

“The video does not involve Shell or any of its employees. The advertising contest is not associated with Shell, and neither is the site it’s on,” they wrote, adding that no legal action would be taken.

Peter Fray

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