What nearly killed Mister Splashy Pants

Mister Splashy Pants

Ok, we all thought it was a fun­ny name: when we launched our name-a-whale com­pe­ti­tion, we had over 11,000 entries that we split up among our Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Team mem­bers to select five each to go for­ward as final­ists. We had poet­ry, we had mythol­o­gy, we had emo­tion­al, we had fun­ny: and we had Mis­ter Splashy Pants.

We’ve done online nam­ing com­pe­ti­tions before; our ship, Esper­an­za, was named in just such a con­test. So we knew one of the first rules of inter­net nam­ing com­pe­ti­tions: gath­er sug­ges­tions from every­where, then appoint a pan­el to go through the names, nar­row it down to a set of final­ists, and then set the audi­ence to vote on those. Key to this is mak­ing sure that you can live with any of the names on your final list, oth­er­wise you court dis­as­ters like the Steven Col­bert Bridge in Hun­gary.

I got the block of 2000 names which includ­ed Mis­ter SP, which was like get­ting the whistle in a box of Crack­er Jack instead of one of those lame tem­po­rary tat­toos. All my spread­sheet said was that it had been sub­mit­ted by Omar of the UK.

Now, did I imme­di­ate­ly put the name in my top 5? I would like to say I did, but I didn’t. And what made me hes­i­tate?

The self-cen­sor­ship instinct. Not every­one liked this idea. It was cute, but what if it won? Was it nom­i­nat­ed by some­body tak­ing the piss out of us? Or was it a sin­cere 12 year old kid who thought his lit­tle dia­pered brother’s nick­name would be per­fect for a whale? I had feed­back that it was an undig­ni­fied name for a hump­back.

Now there ARE folks in Green­peace, dear read­er, who are fine, life-affirm­ing, humour filled folks around the office and in the pub. But when they face out­ward, they come close to that humour­less, wor­thy, holier-than-thou stereo­type we fall foul of so often. It’s as if being po-faced is a brand­ing require­ment. And I know from long expe­ri­ence that putting any ele­ment of humour into any out­put is ask­ing for a broad­side from the Mavens of Mirth­less­ness.

CNET described MSP (for so he is known in our acronym-obsessed cor­ri­dors) as an “Oh, what the heck…” sub­mis­sion, and there may have been an ele­ment of that in our col­lec­tive motives, but in the end I made the deci­sion to put him for­ward on the basis of one of my light­hous­es: exter­nal­ize to the audi­ence what amus­es and inspires those of us with­in the walls and below the decks. And when faced with attempts at inter­nal cen­sor­ship, push back: it’s the best indi­ca­tor you’re break­ing new ground.

What we didn’t antic­i­pate (hon­est!) was that the name would so fire the fun­ny bones of inter­net pranksters, Green­peace detrac­tors, Green­peace Sup­port­ers, and whale lovers alike that it would lead to that thing that every online orga­niz­er dreams of: a run­away viral cam­paign. Sud­den­ly, our audi­ence had grabbed our com­pe­ti­tion and turned it into some­thing else: the Vote for Mis­ter Splashy Pants cam­paign.

Our first glim­mer was in the stats. We saw traf­fic dou­ble in one day to the vot­ing page. Our refer­rals showed a big spike in traf­fic from Red­dit in par­tic­u­lar, which was dri­ving 18% of our refer­ral traf­fic. And there, lo and behold, was Vote for Mis­ter Splashy Pants, third link from the top. With­in 24 hours, Red­dit would bestow upon MSP the ulti­mate hon­or of being its “What’s Hot” Icon upper left of the page.

Mister Splashy Pants

On Web Apps respond­ed to the call to vote for Mis­ter Splashy Pants with a 13 Line Shell Script which (they thought) was vot­ing for MSP 100s of times. Sor­ry, guys, we’re tree hug­gers, not dum­b­ass­es.

Ivan Krig­in thought this was all very fun­ny, and dropped a line to everyone’s favourite uber-blog Boing­Bo­ing. Boing­Bo­ing edi­tor (and for­mer Green­peace can­vasser) Cory Doc­torow picked it up. Sad­ly, some­times we ARE dum­b­ass­es, and the page which Boing­Bo­ing linked to lacked an essen­tial Google Ana­lyt­ics tag, thus ren­der­ing refer­rals and hits invis­i­ble to the Great Google Eye That Nev­er Sleeps.

But at this point, we didn’t need stats to see things were get­ting out of hand. Blogs from Mazur­land, Dhadm, Fark the Dai­ly Galaxy, Dream­er­Fi, Dai­ly Mantra, Web­ware, World Wide Rant, Chro­ma, ob.blog (“This brought tears to my eyes, Thank You Green­peace…”), Growabrain, Noth­ing to do with Arbroath, Human Under Con­struc­tion (which want­ed a recount for non-final­ist ‘Sir Swimalot’), Thun­der­drag­on, Hip­pyshop­per, and many more were crank­ing up the Vote for Mis­ter Splashy Pants cam­paign.

Green­peace Web­by Richard Han­son respond­ed with a blog graph­ing the shell script click escapade, wise­ly begin­ning his first sen­tence with “Thanks to our friends at Boing­Bo­ing and Red­dit…” which got us anoth­er bump on Red­dit.

It was then I threw a search into Face­book and found the “Vote for Mis­ter Splashy Pants” group, which had been cre­at­ed by none oth­er than Omar of the UK — the orig­i­nal source of the sug­ges­tion. There were also sev­er­al *copy­cat* Face­book groups as well.

I dropped an appre­cia­tive note into the group con­firm­ing Omar to be the idea’s orig­i­na­tor, and he kind­ly made me an offi­cer of the group: chuffed! Omar also cre­at­ed his own T-shirt and Gear design which you can buy at Cafe­press.

We did our best to try to cap­i­tal­ize on this one — we put our best con­ver­sion con­tent on the vote page, we got our own Mis­ter Splashy Pants T-shirts and the gear out ASAP, we (and many in the blog com­mu­ni­ty) pushed folks to make the link between nam­ing Mis­ter Splashy Pants and sav­ing Mis­ter Splashy Pants by tak­ing online action to demand the UN cre­ate pro­tect­ed Marine Reserves and ask­ing whale con­ser­va­tion coun­tries to do more to save whales.

And there is, of course, the Mis­ter Splashy Pants con­tent aggre­ga­tor and the “Don’t Har­poon Mis­ter Splashy Pants” peti­tion.

100,000 peo­ple have vot­ed in our online con­test. 73,000 of those votes were for Mis­ter Splashy Pants. While the com­pe­ti­tion doesn’t close until 5pm Fri­day, I’d say that bar­ing a major fluke (arr arr arr), MSP is a shoe-in.

And where to from here? Well, we can all make sug­ges­tions for lyrics and songs to go into “Mis­ter Splashy Pants, the Musi­cal” as Blog­way­Babe sug­gests.

But seri­ous­ly… we have a prob­lem in that nobody knows where Mis­ter Splashy Pants is. His tag has stopped trans­mit­ting, which means any of the hump­back whales which the Japan­ese Fish­eries Agen­cy har­poons for sci­ence could, in fact, be Mis­ter SP! The only way to be sure our hero isn’t har­pooned? Stop all whal­ing in the South­ern Ocean: cre­ate an Antarc­tic Marine Reserve now! 

5 thoughts on “What nearly killed Mister Splashy Pants”

  1. Sor­ry, guys, we’re tree hug­gers, not dum­b­ass­es.”

    Lol — glad to see the script had no impact on the results.

    There is a brigade of red­di­tors who do not seem to get that the­se polls need to be restrict­ed based upon IP address­es (or captchas). Glad you’ve made some such accom­mo­da­tions to deal with would-be polling pranksters!

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