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Chevron's Pricey PR Push Still Cheaper Than Pollution Cleanup

BY David ZaxToday

Chevron We Agree ad

One ad features a smiling elderly indigenous man wearing a bandana, with the words "OIL COMPANIES SHOULD CLEAN UP THEIR MESSES," along with a red stamp the reads "We Agree"--followed by the signatures of Chevron higher-ups. The ad is an apparent reference to a years-long lawsuit in Ecuador, where Chevron is accused of being responsible for $27 billion of oil pollution clean-up costs. Chevron's website today refers to the Ecuadorian lawsuit as "a meritless case" and accuses the plaintiff's lawyers of a "strategy of fraud." Nevertheless, Ecuadorians like those suing Chevron appear to be the heroes of Chevron's new ad campaign.

That's right, the latest series of ads from Chevron aims to take responsibility for oil spills, poor industry safety, and exploitation of foreign resources. Each of these ad spots presents an opportunity for improvement, which feature, in the words of a press release, "an authentic pop-culture street-art aesthetic, and ... a sincere slogan followed by a big red 'We Agree' stamp."

"Chevron is making a clean break from the past," says Chevron's VP of Policy, Government and Public Affairs Rhonda Zygocki in the release, "by taking direct responsibility for our own actions." Zygocki also is quoted as saying: "We're telling truths no one usually tells. We're changing the way the whole industry speaks."

The ad campaign was created by McGarryBowen, who has long been responsible for Chevon's campaigns. The Don Draper-style radical honesty gambit appears to be the work of Chief Creative Officer Gordon Bowen, to judge from the press release. "We were asked to show an agreeable, involved, of-the-people face for Chevron," Bowen is quoted as saying, "and we think we came up with some really great ways of doing that." Chevron typically spends $90 million on advertising in the U.S. alone.

At press time, $90 million is still considerably less than the $27 billion it will take to clean up polluted oil fields in Ecuador's Amazon region. But legal cases aren't won with ad dollars; and the effects of Chevron's new campaign on the court of public opinion remains to be seen. The San Ramon, CA, based company is expected to announce quarterly earnings of approximately $400 million at the end of this month.


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