Shell’s proposed dollars 200 million global campaign (Campaign,
last week)to repair its damaged corporate image raises the question of
whether advertising is sometimes expected to achieve results that are
beyond its powers.
Companies that extract oil from the bowels of the planet to enable its
inhabitants to drive the machines that pollute it find it hard to make
friends. This is particularly true of Shell, whose activities have
provoked criticism of its commitment to the environment and human
In trying to address this, Shell is hampered by having two different
images. One is built around the brand name familiar to millions of
motorists who associate it with well-kept station forecourts,
well-stocked shops and innovative marketing.
The other is of an environmental rapist whose global activities are
perceived as inherently evil. The driver filling his tank is not greatly
fussed about Shell’s green credentials. Many of the sophisticated
opinion formers who do care have an antipathy towards advertising
messages which are thus unlikely to influence their entrenched
That’s not to say such a campaign shouldn’t run. But it has to reflect
Shell’s corporate culture. The campaign may turn out to be no more than
an expensive sticking plaster up an open wound.
Of course, as more agencies claim ’media neutrality’, it would be
interesting to know how many would advise Shell to ditch the whole idea
in favour of a whopping donation to Amnesty International.