Tag Archives: Direct Actions

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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Activists Resource List


findlaw.com  – You can see what charges lead to what convictions in what area etc. A better way to say this would be legal precedents. This website is used by lawyers and a bit to hard to navigate at first but you will get the hang quickly.

midnightspecial.net  –  This site has tons of trainers know your rights training and lots of good legal info for activists as well as the know your rights comic books.

nlg.org  –  national lawyers guild, really goo resource. They will also help to find you friendly lawyers in your area if you call 888 NGL ECOLAW.

collectiveliberation.org  –  Catalyst project, does a lot of rad anti-racist work and has a lot of cool resources.

efclimbers.net  –   This site has two printable resources; directions on how to climb or do mid-line descent and, a second edition focusing more on direction forces, rigging and knots.

smartmeme.org  –  This site offers quite a bit on campaign strategy.

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The Activists Media Guide

IMG_0442Media is one of the most important tools for an activist to use allowing those taking part in direct actions to create headlines around the world, here is a list that I hope you will find useful.

1) Dont let the reporter control the interview, Every interview is an opportunity to communicate your message, always stick to three main messages.

2) Don’t get side-tracked or drawn into a reporter’s debate, many reporters are looking for conflict that will not serve your cause, don’t answer questions you don’t like, and be sure to bridge your answers for a better quote on the issues. For example, “Lets not forget the real important issue at hand, _____ .(insert why you are there).  Keep in mind the reporter only can use what you give them.

3) Don’t repeat a negative answer or negative question. Do not say “no comment” and never think that you will be off the record, reporters will lie to you.  Feel free to ask for clarification if you do not understand a question, or the wording in a question.

4) Feel free to say “let me get back to you momentarily, Do not answer questions you do not know, one misquote could ruin your cause, and misinformation never helps anyone.

5) Always look at the camera and don’t fidget, you need to look confident when addressing the camera. Nerves can be running high, and you don’t want to look nervous on camera. Most communication happens through body language.

6) Smile when appropriate, speak up and be energetic when answering questions.

7) Be prepared to answer reporters questions before you start the action, this will help you be more confident. This can be done before the action, by creating a list of possible questions a reporter may ask. Make sure that your soundbite responses come naturally, at the end of the day this is what the media is after, quick 2-3 second soundbites.

8) Many times at the end of an interview a reporter will ask ” Do you have anything else to add?”, leaving one of the strongest moments for you to get your message out. Make sure you reiterate your message.

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