Last week, we wrote about Shell’s latest greenwashing campaign that is to be centered upon the idea of passing energy to the next generation and particularly the slogan “Let’s Go.” Two commercials and a print ad have emerged so far featuring this phrase.
It has shown up in newspapers, magazines and on national television…and now in a metro station in the Washington, D.C. area.
While walking through the Braddock Metro Station in Alexandria, V.A., Kert Davies, Director of Research at Greenpeace, saw the same slogan on this ad in the station.
It is a simple advertisement and in fact, the shell logo is so small, it would be hard to recognize on first glance. The greenwashing message reads, “Lets build a better energy future. Let’s go.”
Advertising in the metro stations of the D.C. area is high priced real estate for any company; not only because of the thousands of people that will pass it every day, but because of whom those people might be. D.C. is an area for policy makers, movers and shakers. Shell probably wants them to think they actually care about a clean energy future.
Instead, hopefully everyone looks past the big, bold letters of his greenwashing message to the small Shell logo in the corner and realizes the history of this company and why those words shouldn’t be trusted.
Sandra Bullock knows what greenwash is and doesn’t want to be a part of it.
The Academy Award winning actress recently retracted the support she had given to a campaign called Restore the Gulf, an initiative urging citizens to sign a petition to Congress and President Obama to restore the Gulf of Mexico. The petition stated, “I demand that a plan to restore America's Gulf be fully funded and implemented for me and future generations.”Musicians Lenny Kravitz and Dave Matthews, actor John Goodman and actress Blake Lively joined Bullock and other stars and athletes to create a television commercial promoting the petition.
But when Bullock found out that companies such as BP, Shell and Chevron were behind the words, she withdrew her involvement in and advocacy for the initiative.
The Restore the Gulf campaign is run by America’s Wetland Foundation, a group receiving its funding from the oil industry. According to Source Watch, the group was created in 2002 by a plethora of oil companies and now lobbies for taxpayer assistance to restore the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Huffington Post described the group as the “oil industry using a perfectly-named front group to solicit taxpayer assistance for BP’s cleanup bill.”
According to Bullock’s representatives, it was in no way made aware to her that oil companies were involved in or influenced the project. They asked that the group remove the Public Service Announcement until more information could be determined.
After Bullock withdrew her support, the foundation replied that the money it received from oil companies was “for purely scientific or ecological functions.
Bullock doesn’t believe that and neither do we. The foundation was simply a vehicle for dirty oil companies to carry out their dirty business.
Bullock’s representatives said that the New Orleans resident will continue to “continue to pursue opportunities that will bring awareness and support to the plight of the Gulf region.”
But we hope it will be with an honest organization this time. Not a greenwasher.
Shell has a new, somewhat perplexing, greenwashing campaign. Both television and print advertisements in this new campaign now star Japanese children and families. The print ad, which we know has shown up in both newspapers and magazines, includes several Japanese children playing with balloons in what looks like a traditional Japanese home. The text of the ad includes the phrases “Let’s pass energy on to the next generation” and “The Yoshida children have a lot of energy. But the country they’re growing up in doesn’t."
The television ad that accompanies the print one features a young Japanese boy playing his electric guitar loud and his father coming upstairs to unplug the guitar from the wall.
The message of the ad is that Shell is supplying the energy needed for the child to play his guitar, when is father allows.
Both of these ad’s feature the slogan “Lets go,” which is tied to their greenwashing message of promoting a “better energy future.”
Both of these ads are not only examples of greenwash, because of the fact that an oil company like Shell is behind the message, but they are also simply strange in their target audience choice and featured characters. Why Japan?
Perhaps it’s the long history Shell has in the country. Marcus Samuel and the Samuel Company, a part of the group that eventually formed Royal Dutch Shell, has been operating in Japan since 1900. Since then, the company has formed several oil businesses in the country, including Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K., Shell Gas & Power Japan Ltd., Shell Chemicals Japan Ltd., and Shell Global Solutions Japan Ltd.
Japan is a key market for Shell. The country is the world’s largest market for Liquefied Natural Gas or LNG, which shell involves itself in heavily. Additionally, the company works in coal gasification projects in Japan, pulling synthetic gas from petroleum coke, a solid generated from the oil refinery process.
Shell has been significantly benefiting from Japan’s resources for over a century. So why not use the children of the country as the stars in ads that get distributed across the world? I suppose that’s not a crime. But still, the message that Shell cares about the energy future for these children is somewhat skewed, considering their everyday practices in the country and across the world. Shell is an oil company and gets the majority of its money from drilling and exploring for oil. And as long as they are continuing to support those activities, the company won’t be promoting a safe, clean energy future for children in any part of the world.>
If a meat-eater were to hold a vegetarian’s conference, would it make them a vegetarian? If an oil company holds an event promoting alternative energy methods, does it make them an eco-friendly company?
The action might improve their image to those who don’t know much about them, but they don’t fool everyone. An oil company is an oil company. Their income comes from an unsustainable and environmentally damaging source.
So why would they be promoting an event that awards people for using less fuel?
Because they are attempting to paint themselves “green.” Because the company spends a lot of money and time trying to brand itself as caring about the environment and alternative energy. They are bold and experienced greenwashers.
For the last 25 years, Shell has been holding an event called the Shell Eco-Marathon. The oil company created the event to challenge high school and college students to design and build energy efficient vehicles. According to the Eco-Marathon web site, Shell is the organizer of this event because the company is “committed to help promoting efficient energy use, addressing environmental concerns linked to the use of fossil fuels, understanding current patterns of consumption and exploring alternative energies.”
But it’s hard to take this “commitment” seriously.
Not only have they been responsible for both drilling and causing oil spills across the world for years, but also they don’t have any kind of history of being committed to the renewable sector. In April 2009, Shell backed out of it’s initiative to invest in renewable energy possibilities, stating that they are not “economic.” In 2008, the company also backed out of a wind farm project in the Thames Estuary of London.
While the actual Eco-Marathon itself is certainly an act of greenwash, as is the publicity surrounding it.
Last month in the Washington Post, the company ran this half page advertisement promoting the Eco-Marathon. The picture shows an odd, futuristic-looking vehicle that is blurred, probably to make it look fast and powerful. I assume it is one of the entries to this year’s Eco-Marathon. The Web site shows similar looking vehicles.
The competition has two categories: the Prototype and Urban Concept. The Prototype category calls for contestants to develop the most fuel efficient, aerodynamic vehicle possible, while the Urban Concept asks that the most fuel-efficient solutions be developed, while also meeting the criteria for traditional cars on the road today.
There’s no doubting that the Web site makes this event look like a creative way to promote fuel efficiency. But it’s important to remember where the main focus of this company lies; where the money comes from to present the winners of this event with grand prizes (which include trophies and prize money). I assure you it’s at a higher cost than the zeros past the dollar sign.
Shell has spilled tons of oil in Nigeria, not only polluting the environment of the region, but displacing and threatening the indigenous Ogoni people of the country. They are also one of the forerunners of oil drilling in the Arctic.
It’s important that Shell is recognized for the things that truly characterize them; not for the things that they spend money publicizing themselves as.
BP will go down in history for a number of reasons. The company will forever be known as being responsible for the largest oil spill in US history, for leaving hundreds of people without jobs in the Gulf region, for killing an incalculable amount of wildlife, and for altering the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico for decades to come. It’s a severe understatement to say that the company’s reputation has been tainted in the last few months. BP knows this, and they are on damage control. But the frantic efforts to repair their image have of course come with some intense advertising.
While BP has published and broadcasted a variety of different advertising since April 20, one particular advertising campaign seems particularly long running and wide spread. The advertisement’s title is “Making This Right” and lists seven subjects concerning the oil spill. These include: beaches, claims, cleanup, economic investment, environmental restoration, health and safety and wildlife. As part of one large campaign, BP publishes full-page ads focusing on one of these seven categories for a period of time and then switches to another. For example, the beaches version of the advertisement includes a large color picture of people cleaning up the beaches in the Gulf, a paragraph explaining this effort and a telephone number for people to call should they see oil on the beach. The last sentence says, “We may not always be perfect, but we will make this right.”
After seeing this advertisement run practically every other day in several major newspapers, Greenpeace became curious about how much BP was paying to run these large ads so frequently. We began collecting the advertisements throughout the month of June from three major newspapers: The New York Times, USA Today and The Washington Post. We kept track of how many times the ad appeared and whether or not it was in color or black and white. When June ended, we began making calls to these publications to find out how much it was costing the oil giant. After getting estimates from advertising executives and looking at their advertising rate cards online, we found that BP had spent over $5.6 million in one month on advertising in three papers.
Kate Sheppard, a journalist for Mother Jones, used Greenpeace’s total as the basis for a story, which ran earlier this month. In her article, Sheppard also brought to light that BP often also has the option of choosing where their advertisements are printed in the paper, so they can easily place the large advertisements next to a story about the spill; a commonly used, deceptive advertising practice.
$5.6 million is an astounding amount, but a drop in the bucket to the third largest energy company in the world. However, its important to note that the total we calculated is only for one month and only for three papers. Additionally, we discovered that the Washington Post had a bulk rate discount, meaning that they got cut a break.
The real total that has been spent on all advertising since the disaster occurred is many more times the amount that we found. In the end, it will certainly be interesting to see how much it will take to repair a reputation with such a deep scar. However, it might be safe to say that even the largest color ads couldn’t fix what’s already been done.
:: Next Page >>