Hoax + Hijinks Overshadows Chevron’s PR Blitz ~ Han Shan

Via on Oct 29, 2010

I recently wrote about the 18 million gallons of toxic waste that Chevron left behind in the Amazon. UGH! Make that a double UGH with a shot of…

WTF.

But don’t despair. It ain’t over yet. Amazon Watch’s Clean Up Ecuador Campaign has broken out some laudable tactics to bring justice to Ecuador’s indigenous people. My friend, Han Shan–Coordinator of the Clean Up Ecuador Campaign–wrote the following:

Allow me to let the lead sentence in today’s Associated Press article set the stage:

Activists seeking to condemn Chevron Corp.’s environmental record have turned to guerrilla-style tactics, grabbing attention with an online hoax that pre-empted a corporate advertising campaign.

Along with our allies at Rainforest Action Network, we worked with corporate crime-fighting pranksters The Yes Men to make sure that this week’s launch of Chevron’s new ‘We Agree‘ ad campaign would NOT go unchallenged.

As The Yes Men explain in a press release that went out early Tuesday:

The activists’ pre-emptive campaign began early Monday with a press release from a spoof Chevron domain, which launched the fake “We Agree” site hours before the real Chevron could launch its own, real campaign. The fake “We Agree” site featured four “improved” advertisements…”

The parody ads and ad copy on the site highlight Chevron’s environmental and social abuses, and feature photos of Chevron’s contamination in Ecuador, and victims who are part of the ongoing, valiant effort to hold Chevron accountable.

As Ecuadorian indigenous leader Emergildo Criollo said in response to Chevron’s new ad blitz:

“Instead of spending millions of dollars on advertising to improve its image, Chevron should clean up the toxic waste pits that they abandoned, and pay to care for people with cancer that the contamination has caused.”

We Agree.

And our hijinks around this “textbook example of greenwashing,” as I told the AP, ARE turning the spotlight back to the very concerns that Chevron’s deceptive advertising is designed to co-opt and conceal. Now you, dear reader, can help keep Chevron in the hot seat and it will only take a few seconds…

After reporting on our efforts, The Washington Post is conducting a poll, asking: What do you think of Chevron’s new ‘We Agree’ ad campaign?

VOTE NOW!

Did you vote?

Promise?

Okay, then enjoy reading more on this latest effort to use just the right amount of subterfuge to help Chevron with a little much-needed “truth in advertising.”

Fast Company was the first media outlet to fall (hook line, and sinker) for the hoax– here’s an excerpt from the updated version of its article:

Yes Men’s version involved an ad with a smiling elderly indigenous man wearing a bandana, with the words “OIL COMPANIES SHOULD CLEAN UP THEIR MESSES,” along with a red stamp that reads “We Agree”–followed by the signatures of Chevron higher-ups. The ad was supposed to be a 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.com refers to the Ecuadorian lawsuit as “a meritless case”; according to the Christian Science Monitor, Chevron has taken out quarter-page newspaper ads with defensive headlines like “the fraud of the century.” Nevertheless, Ecuadorians appeared to be the heroes of Chevron’s new ad campaign. It was fake, we now know.

And here are links to a bunch of the coverage so far – from mainstream media and wire stories to ad industry and energy outlets to political blogs. I’ll highlight a few of my favorite headlines…

The New York Times
The Washington Post
Associated Press: ‘Activists parody Chevron ad campaign in hoax, seeking to spotlight concerns’
Reuters
Agence France Press [updated version, after hoax was revealed]
Agence France Presse [original, 'archived' version]
Yahoo! News’ The Upshot: ‘New Chevron ‘We Agree’ ad campaign hijacked by anti-corporate tricksters’
KGO-TV Channel 7, ABC News in the Bay Area
BNET – CBS Interactive Business Network: ‘Chevron Punk’d! How the Big Oil Company Lost Control of Its Message ‘
San Francisco Business Times
O’Dwyer’s (Public Relations blog): ‘Chevron Should Adopt Goals of Spoof PR Push’

As many outlets above reported, Chevron spends nearly $100 million a year in advertising (and I don’t think that counts their army of highly-paid PR spinmasters) so it’s very unlikely they’re going to turn back from the investment the company’s already made in their ‘We Agree’ campaign. But this was merely the quick-n-dirty opening salvo from a handful of people who are sick of Chevron treating them like idiots.

And as more and more people see their ads, I think we’ll be joined by a whole lot of people that feel the same way. Creative, funny, intelligent, forward-looking people who I suspect are going to make this first little hoax seem like an amateurish warm-up.

Han, Chevron in Ecuador Blog

Take Action

Tell the Chevron Board of Directors what you think about Chevron CEO John Watson’s approach to the disaster in Ecuador.

Related article by elephant columnist Bud Wilson: We Lost More than a Sun Worshipper.

About Lynn Hasselberger

Lynn Hasselberger lives in Chicagoland with her son, husband and two cats. She loves sunrises, running, yoga, chocolate, and NYR, and has a voracious appetite for comedy. In her spare time, she blogs at myEARTH360.com and LynnHasselberger.com. A "Green Diva" and social media addict, you'll most likely find Lynn on twitter (@LynnHasselbrgr & @myEARTH360) and facebook. She hopes to make the world a better place, have more fun, re-develop her math skills and overcome her fear of public speaking. Like her writing? Subscribe to her posts.

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6 Responses to “Hoax + Hijinks Overshadows Chevron’s PR Blitz ~ Han Shan”

  1. [...] Hoax + Hijinks Overshadows Chevron's PR Blitz ~ Han Shan | elephant journal says: October 30, 2010 at 06:35 [...]

  2. Bud Wilson Bud Wilson says:

    Great Article Lynn, you have a clear, strong voice! The more we demand integrity and honesty of our corporate giants, the more they will have to pay attention. Thanks for the "related article" shout out. :) I've cross referenced yours too – I'm still learning the ropes!

  3. elephantjournal says:

    Nice! I'll link it to the new one I just did.

  4. [...] Chevron’s New Ad Campaign finally gets honest. And funny. And terribly, terribly sad. For more, go to RAN’s Chevon spoof site. Founder of elephant magazine (founded: 2002, went national as indie magazine, & successfully transitioned online in 2009 [because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view]) is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." It's about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. elephantjournal.com (named Top 10 in the US by over 40 sites) and host of "Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis," a national “top ten ‘green’ video blog," Waylon was born in Boulder, Colorado, raised at a Buddhist meditation retreat in Vermont, graduated from Boston University’s top-ranked magazine journalism school; and is a top columnist for Huffington Post, daily bike commuter, workaholic, mediocre climber & best friend of Redford (a rescue hound). His goals in life: to take a long bath tonight with Dwell, The Sunday NY Times, The New Yorker & a glass of Talisker with one ice cube; publish a best-selling novel (and get filthy rich); have 12 red-headed chil'n (and only one wife); run for President (and lose) & have fun all along the way. ~~~ founder: elephantjournal.com | host: Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis. Ft. on 20 sites, incl. Huffington Post. ~ 200,000 unique visitors/month: Google Analytics. ~ Treehugger: Reader's Choice "Eco Ambassador in Culture & Celebrity" + 2010 "Changemaker" ~ Discovery Network's Planet Green: "Green Hero" ~ Shambhala Sun: "Prominent Buddhist" ~ Naturally Boulder: "'07 Entrepreneur of Year" ~ 5280 Magazine: "Top Single '09" ~ MNN: Top 10 US Green Video Blog ~ Beliefnet: Top 10 Buddhist Blog ~ Shorty Awards: #1 Green Twitter in US ~~~ To connect: "elephantjournal on Facebook" "Waylon Lewis on Facebook" & "Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis" on Facebook On twitter: twitter.com/waylonlewis and our award-winning twitter account, named #1 nationally in green: twitter.com/elephantjournal [...]

  5. candicegarrett says:

    I love/hate to read articles like this. Love the voice, hate the reason it has to come up in the first place.

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