Chevron Greenwashing Again?
Last night I opened up a New York Times article and my gaze spilled over a slick banner ad in the right margin reading:
“IT’S TIME OIL COMPANIES GET BEHIND THE DEVELOPMENT OF RENEWABLE ENERGY.”
Big, black, bold letters with red stripes. I’m thinking… Ok, you have me at hello. But who is this? A politician? Right. A new 2011 advocacy campaign? Nope. A BP rebranding? Close.
It’s a new Chevron ad campaign. Underneath that statement appears another.
“WE AGREE. DO YOU AGREE?”
I played along and clicked on the ad. It took me to a landing page full of happy, healthy people smiling and laughing. There was even a guy kissing a baby. I could have been on a wedding photography website, or looking at a photo spread form the local park and rec summer picnic. Instead, the page was covered with statements like:
“It’s Time Oil Companies Get Behind the Development of Renewable Energy” and “Oil Companies Should Support the Communities They Are Part Of.” Looming at the top of the page in dark red was Chevron boldly claiming “We Agree. Do You?” Underneath each statement is a button that reads “I Agree” that they want you to click on. Oh, and then they have a ticker at the top that shows how many people have “Agreed.” At this writing, it’s 73,760. That’s about how many followers Oprah got with her first tweet.
I’m a writer, and I understand the power of words. I also understand how to manipulate them. I take issue with what Chevron is doing, and not just that they are ending a sentence with a preposition.
1. Chevron is framing the question to make it look like me and you are the ones who are out of touch, and that we somehow need to follow them into the bright green world of human energy. Who wouldn’t agree that “Oil Companies Need to Get Real” (and yes, that’s actual real text).
2. Chevron has a counter at the top of the page keeping track of how many people “Agree” with their vague and vaguely stated feel-good text. Anyone who has spent time on Facebook is now conditioned to click on buttons like that and add their name to the ticker list. You may agree with Chevron’s statement, but do you agree with Chevron? If it were a Facebook Page, would you “Like” Chevron (43,753 have…)?
Chevron has tried to green up their image before, with a 2009 ad earning a “Suspect” rating from Enviromedia Social Marketing & the University of Oregon. And they’ve long had their “Human Energy” tagline, are they taking it to eyebrow raising greenwashing levels with their new ad campaign? Or, with their own worst case scenarios in the same arena as BP’s Gulf spill, they are actually taking the initiative to clean up their act before it gets disastrous.
Am I just a cynical blogger? Or is Chevron pulling a classic greenwash? What do you think?