Chevron’s New Ad Campaign Hijacked by Truth…and the Yes Men

Chevron spends around of $90 million a year on advertising, that’s over twice as much as what they spent on their sham clean up of the worst oil-related disaster on earth in Ecuador. Today that very public relations bravado and those slick advertising campaigns caught Chevron up in something they try to avoid…the truth. (We also saw this last week as Chevron CEO John Watson scurried away from tough questions at a luncheon)

Today was supposed to be Chevron’s big day. Unrolling a multi million-dollar ad campaign is like Christmas morning to corporations. This afternoon however, Chevron finds itself in a public relations debacle after their new “We Agree” ad campaign was flipped on its head by some  superb timing and creativity from the Yes Men, Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch.

Hours before Chevron launched their own campaign went live along with a faux Chevron press release announcing the campaign. Expecting such a campaign to be in their inbox, because of the Wall Street Journal’s Friday scoop, some outlets reported this as Chevron’s newest ad blitz. Easy enough mistake, but while the ads look the same the content of these ad is the last topic Chevron wants to talk about in public, accountability.

Since Chevron shifted from cruise control to damage control the press release and website have since been outed as not Chevron, but it was clear that the damage had been done. (New York Times, Reuters, AFP, Fast Company…) Chevron’s million dollar ad campaign getting hijacked is getting way more attention than the actual ads.

Surely frustrated that their parade had been rained on, Chevron is more likely disturbed that they now must address the content of their ad campaigns (which I’ll do below). This is problematic for Chevron because they have a long history of empty rhetoric campaigns and Chevron wanted any truth-telling to be far away from they most recent creation. Seriously, would a quote like “”We’re telling truths no one usually tells. We’re changing the way the whole industry speaks.” Come from Chevron? (Faux release)

Lets take a quick look at what Chevron is actually saying in their ad tag lines-

Chevron- “Oil companies should get behind development of renewable energy”

  • Truth- Last year Chevron spent less than 2% on “alternative energy” projects while spending 98% of their exploratory budget on oil and gas
  • Truth- Chevron controls the worldwide patent rights for NIMH batteries, and won’t allow their use in Electric Vehicles.

Chevron- “Oil companies should put their profits to good use”

  • Truth- Chevron spends over $90 million on advertisements annually
  • Truth- Chevron has spent around $30 million on federal lobby efforts in the last 18 months.

Chevron- “Oil companies should support the communities they are a part of”

  • Truth- Chevron recently barred over 20 legal attendees from their shareholders meeting. These attendees had traveled from communities across the globe where Chevron operated and polluted.

Chevron- “Oil companies need to get real”-

  • Truth- Well actually I agree with that one.

Now, instead of popping corks in the corporate offices to a new round of greenwashing, Chevron now has to “get real” and explain why they disagree with the faux ads. Those ads, much more real than Chevron’s manufactured PR, beg the question: Why does Chevron not agree that “oil companies should clean up their mess“, “fix problems they create”, “put safety first“, or “stop endangering life” as the faux ads say?

It seems being held accountable to communities is something Chevron will never agree to.

Fianlly I wanted to end with a stark note of truth that illustrates the hypocrisy of Chevron’s newest ad blitz.
This telling video shot by Amazon Watch on Chevron/Texaco’s “design to pollute” the Amazon shows Chevron’s real commitment to communities where they operate or have operated in.

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About Nick

Nick Magel is not a fan of oil companies (or any fossil fuel for that matter). He's fortunate to have worked with folks that hold similar views while Communications Manager at Amazon Watch in San Francisco. Prior to that Nick served as Director of the Freedom from Oil campaign at Global Exchange. Nick went to graduate school at the Audubon Expedition Institute where he focused on radicalizing education models while developing a deeper application of critical and feminist pedagogies in environmental education.

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