Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Our friends, the energy companies...

David Lazarus writes about corporate "fuzzy feel-good ads" in the San Francisco Chronicle. A nice article, it reminded me of the long history of this sort of corporate behavior.

These sorts of corporate advertising campaigns date back to World War One, when corporations shifted product-oriented ads to corporate-good-citizen ads so as not to appear too self-interested to the citizenry. They, of course, have persisted ever since, allowing corporations to get their name out there while not appearing to be hucksters for their products. Indeed, public radio and public television, which boast they have no advertising, have given in to the corporate world almost completely by allowing "non-advertising" advertising from their corporate sponsors.

Lazarus points to the case of Chevron, which recently ran an ad in the New Yorker announcing that "the world consumers two barrels of oil for every barrel discovered. So isn't this something you should be worried about?" Well, Chevron has been billing itself as an "energy company" not an "oil company" since the 1970s oil crises. Then it put on a major ad campaign about its efforts in "alternative energy sources" and "renewables," including hosting educational retreats for community college social science and humanities professors who the company perceived were bashing the oil and gas industry. I went to one, a lavish all-expenses paid weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and was stunned by the firm's self-aggrandizement. Why am I not surprised to see that Chevron hasn't changed.

They easily spent $100 million a year in the 1970s on these efforts; and now they brag that they're spending that much now. $100 million per year for thirty years that's $3 billion. And what alternatives have they come up with? Just lots of corporate advertising. It's an absolute abomination!


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