Inspirational Advertising: The Importance of Direct Actions and Civil Disobedience


The largest international environmental nonprofit group on the planet has taken marketing to an entirely new level. Greenpeace is best known for successful campaigns to save whales, rainforests and wildlife with provocative tactics that captivate audiences around the globe. Controversial law bending and peaceful strategies allow the group to innovate marketing tactics.  In 2009, highly trained Greenpeace activists hung a banner on Mount Rushmore National Monument. The banner was positioned in line, to the right of the sculptured faces. The banner depicted President Obama in the backdrop essentially placing him on Mt. Rushmore, a significant national monument.  The white banner was straightforward with a bland but beneficial color scheme that contained lettering in red, white, black and green. The message was clear, “America Honors Leaders, not politicians. Stop Global Warming.”. Creative communication and audacious demonstrations of provide Greenpeace and advantage in mass marketing and direct messaging.

On the day of the event the Greenpeace activists brilliantly coordinated a live video stream, the media, and utilized social networks to gain attention to the MT. Rushmore demonstration. Audaciously trespassing in a restricted area the activists, were successful obtaining free publicity to boost awareness of their message. The spectacular act could not be ignored by international media outlets, social or radio networks. Political and controversial issues have been largely ignored and spun by network pundits, but this valiant action by Greenpeace was successful in reaching millions of people around the world captivating their targeted audience.  Greenpeace also showed impeccable timing with this protest. This particular demonstration was synchronized with the G8 summit, a meeting of the world leaders putting an emphasis on the message.

The clear and concise image circulated mass media outlets for weeks after the incident demanding attention to the issue of climate change. On the bottom of the banner, the contrast between the white lettering and the black background presented the words “Stop Global Warming” a conspicuously powerful, and thought provoking message.  Climate change is a sensitive issue which many politicians and world leaders have notoriously avoided despite public concern and the scientific community’s uproar.

Americans largely distrust politicians, a majority of whom are known to break campaign promises and flop on major issues due to political pressure.  The word, “politician” carries negative connotations, often conjuring up feelings of deceit and dishonesty and often brings into question their integrity.  Highlighted in bold red “Not Politicians”, clearly stands out from the dull grey artistic sculpture. It is obvious that the primary target in the message is President Obama, personalized by his face on the banner. This can also be considered a ploy to open a direct line of communication with the president and hold him accountable for lack of action and leadership on the politically controversial issue.  It is apparent that American voters are the secondary target by stating on the banner “America Honors Leaders”. The tertiary target is aimed towards climate change sympathizers. The message is clever, direct and daring. It also provokes the observer to consider the difference between a leader and a politician. This comparison also adds a sense of importance by depicting President Obama next to President Lincoln. Mount Rushmore National Monument contains the glorified sculptured faces of George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln who are arguably four of the most influential presidents in America’s history.  They are each known for making historic, popular and essential decisions.  The banner’s image of President Obama placed perfectly to the right of President Lincoln invites the observer to compare the current president to the former presidents, not just the difference between a leader and a politician. 

The passionate people who are willing to stretch the bounds of the first amendment are also incorporated in the image. The sheer consequences of their actions give the observer a heightened sense of importance to this issue. We see them in the image, bravely hanging from thin ropes from a world famous monument. The dedicated peaceful protesters are evidently inspiring others to bring attention to the issue. It is considered a social norm to admire the brave and courageous people in our society. We honor those who put themselves in harm’s way for a just cause, and often refer to them as heroes. A tradition that is traceable throughout human history, and we often attempt to mimic their behavior. The activists in this image are clearly trespassing on a national monument which is unlawful, although in this image the majority of the targeted audience will consider them heroes. They could have fled, at the expense of the image being less potent, allowing the observer to excuse the minor mischief.

Greenpeace is a major leader in the environmental movement.  Their campaigning tactics are continually being innovated to suit their needs of specific campaigns. Their creative communication techniques and the precise demographic targeting help to enhance their unique form of marketing. Greenpeace is not selling us a product; they are promoting their organization, advertising their message with the use of free publicity.  Attention that any business would handsomely pay for. They have an exceptional and provocative way to accomplish their marketing objectives. We must respect and admire their successful techniques and recognize the nonprofit group as a marketing genius, regardless if we agree with nonprofit’s use of civil disobedience. Observers of this image will forever associate Greenpeace with the greatest leaders of America’s short history. Any American should be thankful that McDonalds didn’t think of it first.









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