Chevron's waking nightmare began when we (Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch, together with the Yes Men) just barely pre-empted Chevron's multi-million dollar “We Agree” ad campaign with a satirical version of their own. The activists' version highlights Chevron's environmental and social abuses—especially the toxic mess the oil giant has left in Ecuador, which Chevron has been attempting to “greenwash” for years.
We then sent out a press release from a spoof Chevron domain, which launched our fake “We Agree” site mere hours before the real Chevron could launch its own, real campaign. Our fake site featured the four “improved” ads, as well as a downloadable PDF files to be used in real-life wheatpasting.
Nine hours later, after issuing its own super-lame campaign-launch press release, Chevron decried our hoax in a predictably curt and humorless manner. Shortly thereafter we issued a much better counterattack on Chevron's behalf, laying out their arguments in their Ecuador case in the most baldly transparent way we could muster.
Throughout the course of the day a slow vaudeville unfolded on the web, as a number of press outlets, from industry mouthpieces to the AFP, produced some accidental mash-ups of “real” and fake information. It all sorted itself out in the end.
We then it took it one step further, and launched an online contest for submissions of print, web, and even tv ads further satirizing Chevron's blatant greenwashing. Hundreds of submissions poured in and were posted online, effectively derailing the shiny new $50 million campaign. (Funny or Die also produced a hilarious video, that we featured in our own videos.)
Chevron's plan for the “We Agree” offensive had been leaked to Amazon Watch, when ecologist blogger Lauren Selman received a casting call to appear in one of Chevron's new split-screen television ads. Selman used the information she gathered to help our campaign. (Read Selman's blog post here.)
Another leak came shortly after, when Chevron's ad agency, McGarryBowen, asked DC street artist César Maxit if he could help wheat-paste the new Chevron posters. Instead, Maxit sent the Chevron files to the Rainforest Action Network and helped build their campaign. (A video featuring Maxit also featured in our own.)
Our continuing efforts ensured that Chevron's PR strategy backfired so severely it could never recover. Most importantly, it gave many news outlets worldwide an excuse to further highlight Chevron's embarrassing and atrocious environmental and human rights record in Ecuador. The ultimate goal was to force Chevron to its knees.
- Fast Company: Hoaxes and the Chevron Debacle
- The Atlantic: The Failure of Chevron's New 'We Agree' Ad Campaign