It’s happened to all of us: we’re just settling down in front of the telly after a long day at work and suddenly we see an advert that completely changes our mood. Immediately our minds have turned from our dinner to the subject of the advert. We’re trying to imagine just how we’d feel in the situation portrayed. Moments later, there you go, just like that, we’ve decided to take action in one-way or another. Whether it’s a donation to a charity, or the purchase of a new mouthwash because we’ve just been told that bleeding gums could be the first sign of becoming toothless, we’ve just been recipients of the shock tactic.
The shock tactic is a firm favourite with marketers around the world and over the years it’s inclusion in various campaigns has resulted in amazing amounts of support and resources being supplied to those who need it the most.
So what happens when this tactic is used away from traditional methods of advertising such as television or print? What happens when the shock is caused by an individual’s actions that are then covered almost immediately by the media? Cue Vivienne Westwood on a tank.
On Friday 11 September 2015, Vivienne Westwood and a coach full of like-minded individuals protested against the government’s recent announcement that it would offer fracking licenses in 27 locations in the north of the UK.
Being the icon that she is, a simple sign wasn’t enough for Vivienne, she wanted to create an impact and get the whole country talking. The fashion designer and activist hired an infantry carrier and charged through the sleepy Oxfordshire village of Witney, until she arrived at her destination; David Cameron’s country home.
She delivered the following speech:
“Cameron accuses foreign leaders such as President Gaddafi and President Assad of supposedly using chemicals on their own people as a justification for regime change.
“But he is doing precisely that here in Britain by forcing toxic, life threatening fracking chemicals on his own people, against the advice of his own Chief Scientist.
“It’s time for regime change in Britain.”
The story has blown up across social media channels and has been featured in almost all the newspapers over the weekend. The outcome? Raised awareness of the proposed actions on a national and global scale resulting in debate around Cameron’s decision – which will no doubt lead to future campaigns by activists across the country.
So why did this stunt work?
Firstly, it’s not every day you see someone trundle towards the prime minister’s house in the turret of an infantry carrier. Let’s be honest, anyone could turn up at Mr Cameron’s door in a military vehicle and it would cause a hell of a stir.
The fact that Dame Westwood was in that turret multiplies the story’s reach even further. As a lead figure of the fashion world, the story, which is not directly linked to the fashion industry, was catapulted into it via social media, magazines and blogs.
Throw in her worldwide reputation for being an activist and you’ve captured a pretty wide target audience.
Then you think about the hundreds of thousands of people whom are against fracking in the UK, and add them to the mountains of UK residents who don’t have a particular soft spot for Mr Cameron and BOOM! This story has blown-up.
As you can see, this was a cleverly thought out tactic. But wait there’s more, here comes the hidden messages: The tank was white, which is commonly known as the colour for peace (e.g. white flag). Coincidence? How many white tanks are there lying around, not too many that we know of.
Secondly, it’s a common thought among many that the older generation don’t concern themselves with environmental issues, well this stunt has quite clearly shown that is not the case.
Finally, look at the police presence; they were called by the protestors not only to ensure that the protest was seen as a peaceful act but also to make sure and that they were portrayed as the good people. This leaves the impartial questioning who the baddies are.
Over the years many celebrities have used the shock tactic to raise awareness of a particular cause that concerns them.
Dame Vivienne Westwood has proved that if you want to get your story or opinion in the media then shock tactics can work and if you’re prepared for the backlash you may face from those with different views, you’ll certainly make an impact.