Tag: Greenpeace

From Fenton to Orang-utans; the rise and fall of viral

What makes the good, the bad and the ugly in the viral film world – seemingly all of these attributes can bring you great success. We set out here how you could increase the success factor with your own viral creative – starting with a quick memory jolt of some of the landmark viral films that pushed the boundaries and expectations.

Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge back in 2014? Or ‘Fenton Jesus Christ’ in Richmond Park, viewed a staggering 21 million times, the chuckle of the passer by recording is still very funny… And then there’s ‘Charlie Bit My Finger – again’ (viewed 870 million times). The ‘Charlie’ film helped launch Viral Spiral, founded by Damian Collier, who tracked down Charlie’s mum and dad – who admit to earning in excess of £100,000s from the video. So Charlie is still laughing (and hopefully not biting). And we all remember the Cadbury’s Gorilla drumming to Phil Collins’ I can feel it coming in the night, viewed just under a yummy 10 million.

Fig 1 Who can forget Fenton rampaging across Richmond, Park in 2011
Fig 2 Charlie bit my finger, again inspired a new approach to viral

The history of viral is as mesmerising and meandering as the journey to going viral. In 1995 two men made a short film, it took ten years later to launch with YouTube in 2005. Now 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and for big brands, it is big business. Brands are constantly trying to embrace trends; music and any feel good factor that often comes with the phenomena of the ‘viral video’. The video of South Korean based Gangnam Style in 2012 is the most watched viral film of all time – viewed an eye popping one billion times in 5 months (and how many phone ring downloads and horsey dancing copycats..?).  Who doesn’t love PSY’s energy… which contrasts nicely to Adele’s 2015 Hello, viewed to date 2.5 million times and of course the Bond film music for Skyfall. It feels familiar and why does rain work so well for sad..?

We set out to define what we mean by viral, looking at the very best (and worst) examples, to help define what the formula for success is and whether they are any use (for purpose based agendas or for sales?).

Companies use viral videos as a type of marketing strategy. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is considered to have been one of the first viral marketing strategies to hit the world when Dove released their Evolution video in 2006; “you’re more beautiful than you think”, spreading across social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. And of course this trend has spawned a host of awards such as the Viral Video Awards in Berlin, which began in 2008 who only accept films made for internet consumption and for viral distribution (without any media backing). And there’s our first moot point, as many household brands use seed money to get their viral films going. But as Dolce & Gabbana found out in late 2018 going global isn’t always straightforward, with their viral placed on various Chinese social media sites. It depicted a woman in a luxurious D&G dress attempting to eat a pizza with chopsticks with an announcement that apparently mocked Chinese speech. Although D&G removed the ads from social media within 24 hours, the damage was done with calls of racism.

Fig 3 Dove Real Beauty shows we are all more beautiful than we think

Jonah Berger, professor at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and the author of Invisible Influence says of viral films; “Unfortunately there is no hard and fast definition.  Further people often use viral to mean highly shared, but what it really often means is popular. A video can get a million views because a brand paid to have it placed on various sites.  That’s why I talk about how contagious something is, or how likely it is to be shared given exposure.” Goldberg also makes an important point – many so-called viral sensations are far from organic. They are “seeded” with millions of emails and paid support such as digital ads. And don’t forget the dark side of social media influence – likes, views and followers can be purchased”.

Salt Bae became famous in 2017 with his now infamous flick of salt from the elbow, the video posting on Instagram gained 16 million views. Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe, aka Salt Bae’s video shows Nusret throwing salt flamboyantly on pieces of meat, gaining 8,700 comments. But also, Nusret has become so popular, his restaurants are booming worldwide, including his latest venture in London. Not bad from one simple meme.

The 2013 Viral Video Award winner was ‘Follow the Frog’, ushering in purpose based communication. It’s a great and amusing story about the lengths an everyday guy is willing to go to make a difference, he could have more easily made a difference by following the frog – the Rainforest Alliance certification for food products, attracting 1,650 comments and a tasty 5.6 million views.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in the US went viral and inspired people in over 150 other countries to help do something good in 2014. It really took off when Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber took part, in support of slowing the horrible disease – known as Motor Neurone Disease here.  Even Trump had a go, proving his hair was real and nominating President Obama and two of his sons to the cold water bucket challenge.

Fig 4 Donald takes the ALS Ice Bucket challenge in 2014 and nominates
sons and Obama
Fig 5 It would have been easier to follow the Frog in this epic viral for Rainforest Alliance from 2012

The Ice Bucket concept was to video yourself pouring an ice bucket of water over yourself and tagging three friends on social media, who had to respond within 24 hours in the same way and to donate to the ALS charity. Whether it’s ‘slacktivisim’ or encouraging ‘clicktivists’ – which is about looking like you are helping for free – this viral trend had 2.4 million videos posted within months.  With 17 million ice bucket challenges viewed 440 million times, it helped raise $220m worldwide, creating much joy for something that is no joy at all, in the disease.

MNDA, the Motor Neurone Disease Association (the charity most strongly associated with ALS in the UK), has raised £7m from ice bucket donations, a sum worthy of a half seconds soaking on a warm summer’s day.

But in the context of other previous charity challenges, did ‘IBC’ actually deliver? The ‘no makeup selfie’ for CRUK raised over £8m in just 6 days and ‘Movember 2013’ raised a whopping £20.4m in just one month. All of these suggesting that although the ‘IBC’ could have raised significantly more in four months of intensive activity with an estimated 20 million people taking part, viral films are a great route to success for good causes.   

More recently in 2018, Iceland’s ‘Say hello to Rang-tan film’ was a great partnership and a timely focus on the issue of palm oil. Using Greenpeace’s film narrated by Emma Thompson, this was the surprise most watched Christmas ad ever online with 6 million views and 6,500 comments. The ad was banned for broadcast for being too political, which helped drive interest in the issue of deforestation and the effects on habitats and wildlife in the production of palm oil. There was even a consumer petition to get the ad ‘unbanned’.  To Iceland’s credit they have since decided to remove palm oil from all their products.

Of course viral marketing is inherently unpredictable. Nothing guarantees success more than “going viral” (and even more difficult is to predict the reach it will have). Even a viral marketing company by your side can not predict what will happen. There’s a bit of luck, but it is fair to say, to paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, “you make your own luck”. If you understand your audience, you can increase your chances of success with a few tried and tested ‘knowns’.  Factors for success have been identified from viewing dozens of viral videos which could and should increase your chances of being the next Fenton or Orang-utan, by considering the following:

  1. Keep it random, sometimes tough to explain why they are any good. Perhaps more than anything, it’s the unexpected nature, springing something surprising on us
  2.  A personal reflection – a different quality is the ‘proximity’ to us, a unique take on something every day. We all see rainbows but seeing a double rainbow in Yosemitebear Mountain, nobody sees it like this guy! Though that special hook is notoriously difficult to predict
  3. Participation and inspiring creativity, people love to feel that they can copy the story or join into the phenomena – it gives them a kind of power, like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or the Harlem Shake, which seems to be particularly important to the on-going success of any viral film, the story can shift from the producer to the viewer in that respect. In other words, it’s very spoofable!
  4. Funny and touching  – it would seem that most successful virals are more often than not genuinely a bit of a laugh and can also make us cry
  5. Keep them beautifully, simple and short – possibly no more than one minute. According to scientists, in the age of smartphones humans have such a short attention span, even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer*  Now that sounds like a viral..!
  6. Connectors and fans early on are what can make the thing go stratospheric, bloggers, taste makers latch on – look what happened when like Justin Bieber and Justin Timberlake did the IBC?

Whether it’s clicks and shares or “slacktivism”, there’s no doubting that in their moment, good virals are great fun and news worthy in themselves. Capturing that moment is as tricky as finding the end of that rainbow. But if you know your audience and do what seems authentic and true…the possibilities are limitless.  And the ugly nature of ALS or Motor Neurone Disease, will according to reports, have the money raised spent on helping identify a new gene associated with the ALS disease.

Giles Robertso, Lecturer in Digital Marketing, University of Bedfordshire, Director of Green Banana Marketing Ltdand a Marketing Society Fellow.

You can find Giles on Twitter and Linkedin or email Giles@greenbananamarketing.com





Trump doing ALS challenge

Marketing; Hacking the Unconscious Ep 1  (BBC Sounds)



Channel 4 News https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsbvL7Bctjc

Charlie Bit My Finger 

Cadbury Gorillas



Nusret (Salt Bae)


Iceland’s Banned 2018 TV Christmas Advert… Say hello to Rang-tan. #NoPalmOilChristmas

Dove Real Beauty campaign

Business Daily The rise and fall of viral marketing

Business Daily Viral Marketing

Gangland Style https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CH1XGdu-hzQ


Kitroeff, Natalie (19 May 2014). “Why That Video Went Viral”. New York Times. Retrieved 27 December 2015.

Bahadur, Nina (21 January 2014). “How Dove Tried To Change The Conversation About Female Beauty”. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 19 November 2015.







Best charity marketing campaigns of 2018

I’ve selected 3 stand-out charity ads from 2018 which have each delivered creatively and used media partnerships to their advantage.

In first place, it has to be Iceland’s ‘Say hello to Rang-tan film’.
A great partnership and a timely focus on the issue of palm oil. Using Greenpeace’s film narrated by Emma Thompson, this is the surprise most watched Christmas ad ever online. Iceland’s launch was very ‘John Lewis’, supported by their own official Orangutan Plush toy on sale and other marketing ideas, like the use of a realistic animatronic orangutan lost on the streets of London, helping to highlight the issue. The ad was banned for broadcast by Clearcast for being too political, which was a PR blinder for Iceland, and helped drive interest in the issue of deforestation and the effects on habitats and wildlife in the production of palm oil. There was even a consumer petition to get the ad unbanned.  To Iceland’s credit they have decided to remove palm oil from all their products – a great combination of PR, social media and experiential marketing.

In second place,  the Samaritan’s ‘Small Talk Saves Lives campaign’.
Another educational and inspiring film about the issue of suicide on the rail track by the Samaritans. The hairs on the back of the neck moment is when you realise who the narrator of the film is – Sarah, who herself was contemplating suicide at a station when a passer-by took the time to check on her. We are told in the film that a little small talk really does save lives; for every life lost, six are saved by others taking small actions like this. With 6,213 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland in 2017, hopefully this campaign will show that people can make a difference. A great use of partnerships with the British Transport Police and Network Rail and a fine social strategy to spread the film organically on Linkedin and Twitter.

And finally, on a lighter note – Save the Children’s Jumper Day promotion.
This poster on the underground is funny and simple. Save the Children have made the Christmas Jumper Day stand out, quite literally by poking you in the eye. By signing up and donating £2 you can make a child’s future better. I hope this ad has worked well for them, and again good to see media partnerships with Amazon and Visa making this possible.












Wishing you all a positive, creative and healthy 2019.
















Top ten charity campaigns of 2015

Well done to all those charities who have run bold campaigns in 2015. Not an easy year for the sector with many mergers still on the table, negative stories about about how charities operate in getting their vital funds, the debacle of the Kids Company closing and the Edelman Trust barometer showing trust in charities down 17%.

My top 10 charity campaigns this year are:

Greenpeace Awesome Again

It was good to see Greenpeace’s action in 2014 and mobilising millions to stop the Lego Shell partnership in 2015. Without Greenpeace, life would be much less interesting (and less organisations would be kept in check).

Je Suis Charlie

Not a charity but certainly a cause, I’m sure most would agree the Je Suis Charlie events were a critical response to the threat against the freedom of speech, inspired by the terrible attacks in France on 7th January 2015.

This Girl Can

I loved This Girl Can campaign developed by Sport England as a celebration of active women doing their thing no matter how well they do it or how they look.

Big Issue Baristas

A very innovative and entrepreneurial way to diversify the work homeless people can do, by training them to make and sell cappuccinos – with eight carts in London, I wish it all the best.

Amnesty’s Virtual Reality ‘Aleppo’ Street

It’s tough bringing home your message and this campaign does just that with specially created headsets. It aims to transport people to a Syrian street to show the destructive effects of barrel bombs.

St John’s Ambulance ‘Chokeables’

st johns

A brilliant idea, using regular ‘chokables’ as the main characters, with voice-overs from Johnny Vegas and David Mitchell, adding weight.

The Lord’s Prayer ad (Just Pray)


The Church of England planned to run the spot before showings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, opening on 18 December. As an aside, The Odeon, Cineworld and Vue refused to show The Lord’s Prayer ad . The spot launched the Church of England’s justpray.uk website, which encourages prayer and offers tutorials.

I Saw Your Willy / Share Aware

NSPCC’s great campaign encourages children to think about what they share online; with this campaign they have developed a partnership with 02.

Life-changing Learning


The Open University has captured the strength of mind, effort and reward that comes from studying a part-time degree – a nice brand builder.

Unicef Snapchat of Nigeria

Unicef recruited Snapchat artists to redraw the pictures made by some of the 800,000 children forced to flee their homes in Nigeria, as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the horrific impact of the Boko Haram crisis on Nigerian children.

These charity campaigns are all brave and ambitious – but more importantly speak to us in a straightforward language, and in my view, increase the perceived value of the charities’ role on the issues. I believe they have every chance of driving new supporters and partnerships.

Wishing you all a great Christmas and New Year.

Giles Robertson, Director of Green Banana Marketing Ltd and independent Marketing Consultant, Marketing Society Fellow, Board Member, Marine Conservation Society

Follow him on twitter @gogreenbanana and Linkedin or email at Giles@greenbananamarketing.com

The optimism of action


It was back in 2005 that I launched the Marketing Society not-for-profit group – a small thought leadership group for charity marketing folk. The Marketing Society backed the new group and have been stellar supporters ever since of charity and cause related marketing. Little did I know then that the Society would honour me with a Fellowship all these years later. I have admired previous Fellows, and secretly each year at the ceremony, wondered how they managed to achieve their awards…

Receiving the award was a good moment to reflect on the charity sector and the work we’ve done. Above all else, the thing that stands out most is the real passion people in those organisations have for their causes and for making a difference. This, to coin the words of Greenpeace, has often meant “stopping wrongs”, which is not a bad thing to say about your day job!

A redefined Marketing Society vision is also more hands-on and about making a difference in your work; “inspiring bolder leadership” including the work to support sustainability and good causes.

Charities have also taken a long hard look at their visions to meet the needs of today’s demanding supporters who want more transparency and greater action. Macmillan are about supporting and being there for the journey with cancer, Oxfam are about changing lives for the better – lifting people out of poverty. Charities have become more action oriented around fewer issues, which is a good thing. Passion and leadership doesn’t have to come from the global North.  Companies like Unilever with their 5 Levers for change and the Fairtrade Foundation, addressing sustainability and poverty, have found that people care as deeply about sustainability in emerging markets such as China and Brazil, and these countries now bring great leadership and inspiration to the table.

And organisations like Amnesty have relocated their resources to be closer to where human rights abuses are happening.  There is no point in standing on the edge of the issue. I remember Blake Lee-Harwood at one event, Greenpeace’s then Director of Campaigns, telling us how Greenpeace ‘practiced what they preached’. Still guided by the words of one of the early founders, Harald Zindler – “the optimism of the action is better than the pessimism of the thought”. Today all members of Greenpeace staff are expected to ‘stop a wrong’ or to try and ‘replace it with a right’. It is simplicity and passion at work. Take their fight against Lego partnering with Shell, who are battling to dig up the Artic, and you see the same approach at work. Seb Coe talked about his role in bringing the Olympic games to Africa, one of his stated dreams, at a Marketing Society hosted evening. His vision is to make health and sport a part of everyone’s life and normalise disability in sport. I hope that the Marketing Society continue to play a pivotal role in inspiring people to see optimism and opportunity in life changing action.

Best 6 charity marketing campaigns from 2012 and announcing GBM’s new Shortcut series

As the first chilly month of 2013 draws to a close, we wanted to present our list of what we consider to be the best standout marketing from charities in 2012. We have selected six campaigns, which we think are bold and different in what has been a challenging year. Brave souls out there are doing the best for their charity brands and we applaud you all.

1. Save The Arctic
Save the Arctic, headed by Greenpeace, is a campaign to save the Arctic from industrial fishing and offshore drilling for oil. The campaign film, Vicious Circle  is narrated by John Hurt and has driven an impressive 2.4 million people to sign the petition, to have the Arctic region declared a sanctuary by the United Nations.


2. Plan UK recognition
Plan UK’s Because I am a Girl campaign which highlights the plight of the world’s poorest girls, used an interactive ad on a bus stop in Oxford Street. The advert used facial recognition so men and boys were denied the choice to view the full content, to highlight the fact that women and girls across the world are denied choices and opportunities on a daily basis.

3. St John Ambulance Helpless
A TV ad which had minimal media spend went viral, showing a young man surviving cancer, only to choke on some food whilst eating at a mate’s BBQ. Highlighting that up to 140,000 people die each year from choking – that’s as many as die from cancer.  As a direct result of the ad, thirty thousand downloaded the free First Aid app.

4. Compassion in World Farming Front Page
A large proportion of French farmers were expected not to meet the sow stall ban deadline, meaning thousands of sows would continue suffering illegally in sow stalls. CIWF tailored the ‘front page’ of a newspaper for supporters to complete and send to the French Ambassador.








5. Charity: water
Charity: water started three years ago with one man in the States giving up his birthday, spending it instead building wells in Africa. Since then the charity has grown using clever and arresting images, word of mouth, advertising, interesting events and exhibitions and social media. Their fundraising efforts involving celebrities such as Will Smith have been second to none.










6. Oxfam Africa
I love the fact that these print ads hit the press at the same time as Sir David Attenborough’s landmark series Africa.  A positive repositioning of how we see Africa as a country of bounty and great natural riches.



These are just some of things that inspired us from last year.  We will be using a selection of these case studies in our first ‘Shortcuts’ seminar series on Friday 1st March 2013. ‘Shorcuts’ is our free seminar series aimed at inspiring marketing managers to deliver even greater marketing in 2013.