In 2016 the #GourmetMurderKitchen campaign went global. Robbie Lockie explains how he galvanised a whole community
They say all publicity is good publicity-but is this always the case? Activist Robbie Lockie doesn’t necessarily think so. While his name might not be instantly recognisable, if you saw any of the controversy around restaurant chain Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s (GBK) recent advertising campaign, you will be familiar with his work.
The burger chain hit the pages of broadsheets and tabloids alike, when angry vegetarians and vegans took to the internet in their droves to condemn the eaterie’s anti-veggie posters. The posters-adorned with slogans like: “They eat grass so you don’t have to,” next to an image of a cow-were the subject of much ire from meat-free consumers who felt their custom was being belittled. Social media posts all featured the same hashtag: #GourmetMurderKitchen. What made the targeting of veggies and vegans all the more surprising was that the brand caters generously to the meat-free crowd, with a number of plant-based meal options and a range of vegan alcoholic drinks on offer.
“I saw the advertising and I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t more outrage about it,” Robbie tells Vegan Life. “I thought that either they were planning on being so cheeky to provoke a reaction or they were just a misguided attempt at humour. Gourmet Burger Kitchen, was quite easily changed to Gourmet Murder Kitchen, I thought it sounded really catchy, and when you saw it on a poster you didn’t necessarily connect straight away until you realised the word was murder and not burger, they are quite close together.”
After numerous articles in the press, many complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency and social media users threatening to boycott the chain, GBK pulled the most offensive ads.
An introduction to activism
Robbie did a year-long course in campaigning with Campaign Bootcamp. He says: “It was an intense course that teaches you how to gather a mass movement to change something. It taught me how to approach a goal like this. The first thing is to set your aim: I decided the aim was to have the offensive posters removed and for the company to apologise, I think it was vital that we took a stand and generated a buzz about it.
“The next step is to find allies, these are people or organisations who will talk about, tweet or write articles about it. So I wrote an article for ecohustler.co.uk of which I am a member. I then contacted the Metro Online, as it has quite a big following.”
The campaign hashtag and the poster were good catalysts to galvanise people in to taking action. Robbie wrote a collection of sample tweets that people could use and adapt for twitter. “We then madly started tweeting all the vegan celebrities and prominent vegan personalities around the world to generate some buzz,” he says. “The next day I couldn’t quite believe that it was mentioned in the Telegraph, the Metro, the Independent and almost every single major paper bar the Guardian.
“Many people felt we were giving GBK free publicity, but what they forgot was that the coverage was also giving veganism and more importantly Veganuary free publicity as it was mentioned in almost every single article. I also went on to BBC Radio London and talked about it, and hopefully thousands of people heard what I had to say. I stuck to the facts, avoided getting emotional and focused on the environmental impact of why we need to stop eating animal products.”
Robbie describes the response as ‘overwhelming’. “I had so many people tell me how inspired they felt by how many people took to the air waves to complain about GBK. I think it worked really well to galvanise so many people in to some form of activism, no matter how small.
“What most people don’t realise is just how much power we have as consumers, if you feel passionate about changing something in society, nothing is impossible. All you need is courage, determination and a lot of dedication. I really truly believe that we can reach a critical mass with veganism, because all that we need to do is galvanise people and we can change anything.”
I want to launch a campaign-how should I do it?
According to Robbie:
- Many campaigns start with investigating the problem and setting goals. Education, such as hosting workshops, often comes next.
- Early on, campaigns also engage in organization building, forming alliances with new allies, establishing a group, and recruiting members. Groups often negotiate with the target in the hope of easily reaching an agreement. Campaigns then tend to start using low-level confrontational tactics, such as speaking at city meetings or wheat pasting. High-level confrontational tactics and resource intensive actions follow, such as rallies, lawsuits, and civil disobedience.
- Campaigns usually subside when a group negotiates a deal with the target, although it’s common for groups to reapply pressure to ensure the agreement is implemented.
The man behind #GourmetMurderKitchen
I was born in Zimbabwe, Africa in 1979. I spent most of my life living on a farm around animals, and grew up with two very young parents. I went to a school in the mountains in a place called Mutare.
When I was 16 I moved to the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare to study, but ended up getting a job in Web Design when I was just 18, I trained in house at a technology company. After a couple of years in the big city I decided it was time to leave Zimbabwe, things were getting progressively worse, with fuel shortages, constant power cuts, and police riots. It just no longer felt safe. My parents put £200 in my pocket and sent me on a plane to the UK. I landed at Gatwick I then got a train to Reading, where I spent one year. I soon outgrew Reading and headed to London, where I have been since 1999.
In the last 17 years I Have worked for a variety of companies both large and small, I was Jamie Oliver’s web designer for a few years and was the person that got him set-up on Twitter and Facebook. I also worked for Getty Images as an art director.
After many years working in the corporate world, I decided I wanted to setup an ethical advertising agency La Verita Studios, where I worked with a variety of organisations, such as Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, LEON Restaurants, European Movement International, European Youth Forum, Move your Money UK, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, LOVE146 Charity, Bobbi Bear South Africa, A Day without News, Getty Images, Little Angel Theatre London.
I work with Action for Happiness where I helped produce a crowd-funder video (crowdfunder.co.uk/create-a-happier-world ) helped them with the campaign. I am also a part owner of (positive.news) a 25 year old newspaper, now a magazine. And in my spare time I make films about amazing people and organisations in London (peopleof.london/)