NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chevron Corp launched a new advertising campaign on Monday to address negative perceptions of big oil companies, but a bogus release and website by activist hoaxers and an environmental group quickly sought to turn the tables on the company.
Chevron announced its “We Agree” print and video campaign, designed to highlight its efforts to develop renewable energy, create jobs and support local communities.
But a hoax press release sent to media outlets by the Yes Men and the Rainforest Action Network hours ahead of the Chevron release, complete with fake quotes from Chevron executives and ersatz Chevron website, sought to point a finger at the company’s environmental controversies.
One of the spoof adds read “Oil companies should fix the problems they create,” stamped with “We agree” in red ink.
That mimics authentic Chevron-created ads that have that slogan stamped on posters bearing phrases such as “Oil companies need to get real.”
The Yes Men have become notorious in recent years for their stunts in posing as representatives from companies such as Dow Chemical Co, Exxon Mobil Corp and Halliburton Co.
Chevron is currently fighting a $27 billion lawsuit in Ecuador dating back 18 years that contends Texaco, which Chevron bought, caused significant environmental damage in the Amazon through faulty drilling techniques.
Chevron has said Texaco repaired damage in all areas of the jungle for which it was responsible, that the courts in Ecuador have been biased and that plaintiffs lawyers have engaged in misconduct. A verdict in the case could come in the next few months.
A spokesman for the oil company said the hoax ad campaign would not detract from its media strategy.
“The idea of the campaign is to identify issues that people have with oil companies and find issues where we can have common ground,” Chevron spokesman Morgan Crinklaw said.
Maria Ramos of the Rainforest Action Network said the group was tipped by a blogger about the media campaign a few weeks ago, and it sought to use the event to highlight issues such as pollution, climate change and human rights.
“Instead, 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,” Ramos said. “Just because it says so in the ad doesn’t mean its true.”
Reporting by Matt Daily, editing by Gerald E. McCormick