9-30-07 by Court
Chevron’s latest advertising campaign, which gives the company the tagline "Human Energy," is a classic study in how large rogue corporations try to show themselves as having a soul and human meaning. The 2.5 minute infomercial on 60 minutes tonight (see the ad in the link in Ad Age) tries to turn Chevron’s face into the human face of its employees. Chevron tries to present itself not as profit-driven oil machine but a human organization striving to save our planet. Obscured, of course, are little facts like the company’s war against California’s pioneering alternative energy development fund (Prop 87), its refusal to cleanup the oily mess its made in the Amazon, and its refusal to take pragmatic steps to deploy ethanol at its service stations. Let alone the corporation’s well-documented supply manipulation to drive up gasoline prices on us other human beings.
A multi-billion dollar communications budget is the societal power to bring into focus and to blur, to promote fictions or facts that are beneficial for one’s interests and to fade out facts that are not. This is the force not only to advance the individual’s identification with a particular brand, like Chevron, but also their empathy with the corporate form. In the marketers’ Oz, individuals typically see the corporation’s individuality, not corporations’ commonality. Corporations are presented as independent, competing entities, each with its own “personality” and distinct values. Individuals engage personal characteristics of the corporation, personifications of human values that imply a person or personality is there for you. McDonalds loves to see you smile. You’re in Allstate’s good hands. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. Avis is trying harder. Chevron is human energy.
The focus of the camapign is to build Chevron’s brand and take our mind off the product its profiting from. Trust in an oil company today is not going to come easy to the American people. Even if the budget were $15 billion, not $15 million. Of course, Chevron could spend whatever it takes to acheive Chevron’s tanscendence.