Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Chevron ‘We Agree’ ad campaign hijacked by anti-corporate tricksters

New Chevron ‘We Agree’ ad campaign hijacked by anti-corporate tricksters

By Brett Michael Dykes

Chevron rolled out its latest ad campaign this week with the idea of burnishing the image of the spill-tarnished oil industry. The campaign, called "We Agree,"highlights very broad negative impressions of the oil business, with the leaders of Chevron--the "we" referenced in the spots--chiming in to say that they understand and are taking positive measures to improve things, via initiatives such as clean-energy development.

But the company now is in anything but an agreeable mood over a hoax campaign that draws on far more specific, and damning, complaints over oil company practices.

The meta-pushback campaign is the handiwork of a group called the Yes Men. Joining forces with the environmental groups Amazon Watch and the Rainforest Action Network, the Yes Men released a bogus press release and even put up a phony website for the hijacked version of the "We Agree" campaign.

[Rewind: Rush Limbaugh falls for Wikipedia hoax]

As the New York Times' Stuart Elliott notes: "The main difference between the lampoon and the real one was that the fake release described the ads as addressing environmental issues in which Chevron is embroiled, including a dispute in Ecuador over oil pollution; the real ads do not directly address those matters." Some media outlets, including the digital-business publication Fast Company, were taken in by the prank, the Times says.

So Chevron, which had been expecting to spend much of the week touting its civic-minded achievements, is now embroiled in a pushback campaign against its media-hacking tormentors. "We expected something like this would be done," Chevron spokesman Morgan Crinklaw told the Times, because "there are activist groups whose sole focus is attacking Chevron and not engaging in rational conversations on energy issues."

The perpetrators of the prank claim they are merely truth-squadding the sunny claims of the "We Agree" spots. "The oil giant has prioritized this high-priced glossy ad campaign that attempts to trick us into believing it is of the people, for the people," Maria Ramos of the Rainforest Action Network told Reuters.

This isn't the first time the Yes Men have targeted a major energy company. The group's past campaigns included pranks ridiculing Exxon Mobil and Halliburton, among other international corporations. In boasting about the success of the Chevron prank , the Yes Men also took a shot at the media.

[Related: JetBlue takes shot at competitor in new ad campaign]

"If you really want to snooker the media, it's pretty hard for them to resist," Mike Bonanno of the Yes Men said in a Yes Men press release. "We cobbled together some fake releases with string and thumbtacks and chewing gum, and we fooled the most respectable outlets."

Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum added: "Chevron is doing what we did, a million times over, with a ginormous budget -- and it never reveals its subterfuge. No wonder the media's full of lies."

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