One leak, and over a 48-hour period we scuttled Chevron's campaign... and then many friends scuttled it a lot more
Chevron's plan for the “We Agree” offensive was first 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, in a typical moment of corporate brain fog, asked DC street artist César Maxit if he could help wheat-paste some new Chevron posters.
Instead, Maxit sent the Chevron files to the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and offered to help however he could.
When news of Maxit's leak came in, Andy and RAN campaigner Ginger Cassady had been on their way to San Francisco to begin planning an action against Chevron. They quickly switched gears, and began plotting how to almost immediately release Chevron's $80 million campaign, before they could.
Holed up in a Sausalito houseboat, several people from Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch, along with Andy, succeeded in just barely pre-empting Chevron's multi-million dollar “We Agree” ad campaign, producing a satirical version of their own. The activists' version highlighted Chevron's environmental and social abuses—especially the toxic mess the oil giant left in Ecuador, which Chevron had been attempting to “greenwash” for years.
They then sent out a press release from a spoof Chevron domain, which launched the 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 downloadable PDF files to be used in real-life wheat-pasting.
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 actual 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 Chevron's shiny new and expensive campaign. Funny or Die also produced a hilarious video (see 4'32") that we featured in our project reveal video and later rough cut (which sadly never made it into a movie).
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, of course, to force Chevron to its knees — which hasn't yet happened, not quite....