The first of five ‘guerilla’ banners were unfurled over ads paid for by Schweppes and Budweiser at London’s Old Street roundabout at 7am this morning, as police were called in to investigate.
Timed to coincide with a global campaign against the car-maker across the world, the event focuses on Volkswagen’s environmental record and saw five billboards in east London taken over by activists, who started scaling the hoardings at 6am.
Greenpeace campaigner Emma Gibson said: ‘Volkswagen has spent millions on its new advert, using children and Star Wars iconography to persuade the public that it’s a responsible company.
‘It was a stunningly successful advert, so VW can hardly complain if we now turn its own tactics back on the company to shine a light on its poor environmental record.’
Greenpeace consulted legal advisers before the launch took place, and the climbers spent the last three to four days preparing for the activities.
The billboards feature an image of Star Wars’ Darth Vader with the VW logo, alongside which is written: ‘Volkswagen. The Dark Side.' Once one of the billboards was up, 12 activists dressed as Stormtroopers patrolled the street to canvass opinion.
It comes as part of an integrated campaign which includes a viral film that spoofs the car-maker’s own Internet advert featuring a mini Darth Vader. In Greenpeace’s version, young Star Wars characters challenge VW’s mini Vader while a VW-branded Death Star threatens the Earth. It can be viewed at www.VWdarkside.com.
The campaign against Europe’s biggest car-maker was simultaneously launched in China, New Zealand and Canada as well as in eight European countries.
The environmental group is highlighting key failures by Volkswagen to live up to the company’s ‘carefully crafted reputation as a family-friendly and environmentally responsible car manufacturer’.
A new Greenpeace report released today and trailed in The Independent points to Volkswagen’s ‘political muscle’ to lobby against environmental laws and accuses it of failing to reduce petrol consumption as quickly as other brands.
This campaign comes less than a month after Greenpeace launched a 100-metre banner in London’s Piccadilly Circus targeting Mattel, accusing the Barbie toymaker of causing deforestation due to its packaging.
Greenpeace media director Ben Stewart was not present at the launch as he was in the North Sea taking part in a protest on a Cairn oil rig.