Kudos to the British Heart Foundation for their Hard and Fast video campaign starring Vinnie Jones.
Aimed at educating the general public on the best way to perform CPR, the video sends up Jones' typecast gangster persona by making a Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels spoof in which the former footballer - flanked by two blokes who look like they're appearing in the video in order to fund their way through Bouncer School - resuscitates a 'geezer' using only his hands because "you only kiss your Missus on the lips"...
The campaign went viral, racking up more than a million views on YouTube and earning a string of press coverage. By embracing celebrity culture, keeping the message simple and adding a twist of humour into the mix (the soundtrack for the video is the Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive), the British Heart Foundation unlocked a mass audience for a message that without the help of Jones and his burly companions could have been pretty worthy and dull.
Compare and contrast with some of the eco movement's attempts to engage a mass audience. Treehugger website recently hailed the fact that five 'eco movies' have been shortlisted in the Best Documentary category for this year's Oscars as a sign of the subject's rising popularity. Those films are: If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (a tale about eco terrorists), Battle for Brooklyn, Jane's Journey, Semper Fi: Always Faithful, and Project Nim. How many have you seen? How many of them have you even heard of? Thought not...
At the time of writing the You ube trailers for those movies have a total of 82,046 views between them. That's more than 10 times less than what Vinnie managed on his own. Where the British Heart Foundation was brave enough to put its tongue firmly in its cheek to communicate an important message, too many in the green movement lack the boldness to make content that might appeal to people who have different interests to them (i.e. things other than climate change).
PETA, the US-based campaign for the ethical treatment of animals, has a history of taking a more populist approach to getting their message across. Much like Global Cool, the climate change campaign I work for, PETA has used celebrity association to engage the mainstream with their work. Their latest campaign will see them take their message into the world of pornography with the launch of a new .xxx domain version of their website. Users of the site will be forced to watch an animal being skinned before they get to see a celebrity in the buff.
Whether anyone will still be in the, er, 'mood' for doing whatever it is that they do while looking at naked ladies on the internet (I couldn't possibly comment) once they've seen an animal being liberated of its fur is up for debate. It's unlikely to win PETA any Oscars, that's for sure. But common consensus (and a load of search data from Google, no doubt) certainly suggests that the potential audience for PETA's message is significantly higher in the porn world than it is in the eco documentary world.
Eco terrorists and those who make documentaries about them should take note.