Batman and Spider-Man vs. oil tankers

Seven years ago when we launched the No Tankers campaign, we knew the fight would happen in the courts, in voting booths, in opinion columns and in boardrooms, but we never thought it would end up in movie theatres. Nevertheless, it has.

Who knew that Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man (and the other Avengers), along with Katy Perry, would end up on the front line of the battle to protect the B.C. coast?

You may have noticed the slick commercial Enbridge has been running on B.C. television stations the last few months. These commercials, part of Enbridge’s $5 million ad blitz attempting to sway British Columbians in favour of their oil tanker and pipeline proposal, have been running in full rotation on television during the news and major sporting events. They are also running during previews at movie theatres.

Fortunately, it appears British Columbians aren’t buying Enbridge’s spin. We have been receiving reports from across the province that when Enbridge’s ads appear in theatres, audiences consistently boo them.

I’m sure this is not what Enbridge, or their high-priced spin doctors Hill & Knowlton, intended when they placed their expensive ads. Enbridge was probably hoping to benefit from the heightened impact movie ads may have on viewers. Some researchers claim that because audiences go to the movies to ‘suspend disbelief’ they are naturally more susceptible to pre-movie advertising. While people fast forward through or ignore TV ads, movie goers are a captive audience.

Vaughn Palmer, columnist at the Vancouver Sun, commented on this phenomenon in a column last month: Enbridge pipeline doomed to be non-starter

Palmer wrote:

“I was awaiting the start of the movie, when suddenly, amid the usual flow of advertisements for automobiles, communication services and cold drinks, there was one of those Enbridge spots touting the Northern Gateway as “more than a pipeline, it’s a path to the future.” …But here’s the thing: the audience booed the pro-pipeline pitch and did so with considerable enthusiasm. How often that has been happening in movie theatres, I have no idea. But I was struck by the thought of Enbridge launching a campaign to – in the words of a company representative – “help British Columbians understand what the project is all about” only to have its best efforts greeted by a chorus of boos.”

If the experts are correct and audiences are more susceptible to advertising at the movies, the booing is a double whammy. It creates a negative impression of Enbridge, which is further reinforced by the fact people are instinctually joiners. We like to be a part of a crowd, and the behaviour of a crowd can alter how we think and behave.

Don’t worry: we’re not just relying on booing to fight back against Enbridge’s $5 million ad blitz. The spoof of Enbridge’s ad, produced by LUSH Cosmetics (in partnership with Dogwood Initiative), is running in Vancouver’s Festival Cinemas before each movie for all of July and August, thanks to the help of West Coast Environmental Law and the generosity of Festival Cinemas. So if you go to one of Festival’s theatres this summer, don’t boo: cheer.

In fact, if you live in Vancouver, go see your movie at Festival Cinemas. Good corporate citizens deserve to be rewarded. And there are few things more enjoyable than turning a slick corporate advertising campaign on its head.


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