Chevron corporate confirms: Numerous news organizations were taken in 10/18 by two spoof press releases regarding its just-launched “We Agree” campaign. Here is the official statement, sent to us by Chevron Media Advisor Justin Higgs:
“Response to Fake Advertising Press Release and Website
October 18, 2010
Chevron’s new advertising campaign is meant to identify and highlight common ground on key energy issues so we can move forward safely, intelligently and collaboratively. Unfortunately, there are some who are not interested in engaging in a constructive dialogue, and instead have resorted to rhetoric and stunts. Today, activist groups have attempted to interrupt the conversation by issuing a fake press release and establishing a counterfeit website, which are not affiliated with Chevron. The media should contact Chevron’s media line (925) 842-0050 or email [email protected] to ensure the accuracy of the information they have received. Chevron’s press release announcing the launch of the “We Agree” campaign and the ads can be found at www.chevron.com.”
Higgs tells RBR-TVBR beginning on Oct. 18, the advertising will run in the U.S. with an increased media presence in California, Houston and Washington D.C., and in global print publications and on pan-regional TV (Asia, Africa, Europe, Middle East, South America): “In the United States, TV spots will air on programming such as Meet the Press and Face the Nation, among others. Pan-regionally the spots will air on channels such as CNNI, CNBC Global, BBC World and Discovery International. Print ads will appear in publications like the Economist, The New Yorker, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, as well as in key markets such as the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.”
From the second fake release:
On 10/18, a group of environmentalists cyber-posing as Chevron officials illegally spoofed Chevron’s just-launched “We Agree” advertising campaign. While such a campaign does exist, its official URL is www.Chevron.com/weagree. The ads released earlier in the day, at Chevron-weagree.com, were an elaborate subterfuge and must not be mistaken as real, said the company.
“Chevron does not take this attack lightly,” said Hewitt Pate, General Counsel for Chevron. “We invest extremely heavily in our campaigns, and we take them extremely seriously. Such actions can never be tolerated.” Though the exact cost of “We Agree” must remain confidential, Chevron routinely spends $90 million per year on US advertising alone.
Pate also noted that the environmentalists have made libellous allegations regarding Chevron’s record and obligations in Ecuador and beyond. “Despite what some will say, we are not obliged to abide by decisions that Ecuadorian judges make or do not make. This is because we have binding agreements with the Ecuadorian Government exempting us from any liabilities whatsoever, granted in exchange for a $40 million cleanup of some wells by Texaco in the 1990s.”
“We have always upheld the best values of every country to which we are attached,” added Pate.
“This hoax is part of an ongoing effort to blame Chevron for 18 billion gallons of toxic waste dumped in the Amazon during drilling operations,” said Rhonda Zygocki, Chevron vice president of Policy, Government and Public Affairs. “This blame game continues despite Chevron’s long-standing agreement with the Ecuadorian government which very obviously puts the issue behind us.”
From the first fake release:
Chevron unveiled a new global campaign aimed at showing Chevron as a “real people” corporation, and admitting to problems that companies usually try to hide. The candid effort, via long-time Chevron AOR McGarryBowen, features real people on the receiving end of Chevron controversies in Ecuador, Nigeria, the U.S. Gulf Coast and elsewhere. Each print ad is designed with an authentic pop-culture street-art aesthetic, and features a sincere slogan followed by a big red “We Agree” stamp, the signature of Chevron executives, and the Chevron logo.
“We want the world to know that we’re just like you and me,” said Chevron Vice Chairman George Kirkland. “We’ve got problems and challenges, and we too make mistakes, but we’re telling truths no one usually tells, and looking wide-eyed into the future.”
Another ad, “Oil Companies Should Fix The Problems They Create,” is just as topical. “Extracting oil from the Earth is a risky process, and mistakes do happen. It’s easy to pass the blame or ignore the mistakes we’ve made. Instead, we need to face them head on, accept our financial and environmental responsibilities, and fund new technologies to avoid these mistakes in the future.”
“We were asked to show an agreeable, involved, of-the-people face for Chevron, and we think we came up with some really great ways of doing that,” said Gordon Bowen, Chief Creative Officer of McGarryBowen. “BP’s response to the Gulf tragedy was widely perceived as perfunctory and insincere. Chevron has big problems too, like in Ecuador – but they’re really stepping up to the plate.”
The “We Agree” campaign is an evolution of Chevron’s “Power of Human Energy” campaign, which launched in 2007 with a series of print, online, broadcast and outdoor ads that all sought to raise awareness and encourage discussion about the major issues facing the energy industry. Though the exact cost of “We Agree” remains confidential, Chevron routinely spends $90 million per year on US advertising alone.
RBR-TVBR observation: This has been done before with Clear Channel ages ago. Yes, the press is fool-able and such spoofs can be damaging to a company, indeed. Funny, when we asked the PR person (“Giles Vechny”) from the fake release about the media buy, here is what he said (we knew something must have been wrong–not a very corporate response, here):
“Absolutely! We are suffusing EVERY market. EVERY SINGLE ONE!!! Without fail. I don’t want to overstress this, but we WILL dominate the airwaves. Make no mistake.
It’s a real take-no-prisoner game…It’s reality.
p.s. When your brand is under attack, you can either stick your head in the sand, or go full throttle. We’re going full throttle.”