ExxonMobil mulls protest after natural gas ad ban

LONDON - ExxonMobil is considering a challenge to the ad watchdog after a TV ad promoting its liquefied natural gas development was banned for claiming the fuel was one of the cleanest sources of energy and environmentally friendly.

The company believes its ad was "accurate and truthful", according to the corporate affairs director for its UK subsidiary Esso.

The Advertising Standards Authority decided to investigate the ad, which featured three ExxonMobil employees talking to camera about LNG and the energy challenges facing the world, after receiving four complaints.

The words spoken by Claudia Napolitano, Alan Kelly and Emma Cochrane were: "I think one of the biggest challenges that the world is facing today is to develop all the energy we need in an environmentally friendly way.

"It's going to be vital that we develop all sources of energy to fuel the future growth of the world economy and this growing population. Its going to be oil and gas, coal, nuclear, wind and solar. We are going to need them all.

"One of those examples is liquefied natural gas. Natural gas is one of the world's cleanest fuels but most of it is found far from where it's needed. We have a number of different technologies that were developing to ensure a reliable supply of natural gas for Europe.

"We take the gas, liquefy it and that allows us to ship it over enormous distances. ExxonMobil has found ways to transport as much as 80% more liquefied gas than was possible before and bring more energy to more people all over the world".  

On-screen text at the close of the ad stated "ExxonMobil. Taking on the world's toughest energy challenges".

According to the advertising watchdog, four viewers, who understood that the use and production of LNG caused significant carbon emissions, challenged whether the claim "natural gas is one of the world's cleanest fuels" misleadingly implied LNG was environmentally friendly.

The ASA agreed and ruled that the ad must not be broadcast again in its current form.

However, its summary shows that Clearcast, the body responsible for clearing ads for broadcast, was satisfied with the claim that "natural gas is one of the world's cleanest fuels" as it was less environmentally damaging than any other fossil fuel.

But the ASA argued that viewers would interpret the ad as claiming natural gas was clean in comparison to all the energy sources listed in the ad -- oil, gas, coal, nuclear, wind and solar -- and decided this was misleading.

Nick Thomas, the corporate affairs director for Esso UK, said: "We are very disappointed in the ASA Council's decision. Our advertisement accurately stated that natural gas is one of the world's cleanest fuels, that liquefied natural gas will play an important role in delivering new energy supplies, and that all forms of energy will be needed to meet growing demand.

"Both Clearcast, (the organization responsible for reviewing television advertisements before  transmission) and the ASA's own Investigations Executive (which makes recommendations on complaints to the ASA Council) felt that the complaint should not be upheld.

"We maintain that our ad was accurate and truthful, and are considering an appeal of the Council's decision."

The ban follows less than a month after the ASA blocked a Shell print ad for making misleading claims about the company's investment in green technology.