Russia Today, also known as RT, has caused controversy yet again by putting a series of ‘provocative’ adverts on the London Underground.
Launched in 2005, the Kremlin-backed news network was founded primarily as a public relations effort to improve the image of Russia on the global stage.
RT position themselves as an ‘alternative’ news network that questions the contentious narrative of western mainstream media.
Russia Today conjures up its identity by calling upon its viewers to ‘question more’ of establishment politics and media in the UK.
In one of the adverts, they tell commuters to ‘Watch RT and find out who we are planning to hack next’, a nice sideswipe to the ‘Russia hacked our election’ claims.
Another read ‘The CIA calls us a propaganda machine – find out what we call the CIA’.
The third advert asked ‘Missed the train? Lost a vote? Blame it on us!’ – another satirical reference to the 2017 U.S. elections and the ‘blame Russia’ meme.
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson was one of the first MPs to call for an investigation into the controversial ad campaign, claiming that it’s a ‘tacit admission that RT is the mouthpiece of the Russian state’.
But this isn’t the first time RT has caused a stir in the UK. In 2014, RT was scheduled to run their ‘Second Opinion’ campaign when they were rejected by authorities due to the ‘provocative and controversial’ nature of the adverts.
Although we’re warned about the ‘subversive’ nature of these adverts, I’m still going to acknowledge them from a marketing perspective.
Unlike other out-of-touch mainstream media outlets, RT has quickly learnt how to leverage the power of sarcasm, humour and irony in their narrative.
Despite the fact that they too, regardless of how they might attempt to tell us otherwise, also qualify as a mainstream media outlet, they project their messages in a different way.
Perhaps this explains why they’ve experienced such huge growth as an international news network. RT boasts viewership figures of over 70 million people per week, half of which tune in daily. This, on top of their combined social media following, aren’t numbers to be shrugged at.
Now their span of influence is undisputed, is it time to look out for the reds under the bed again?