How We Scuttled Chevron's Campaign- The Yes Men

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….

 

This article originally appeared:

https://theyesmen.org/

ANDY BICHLBAUM

ANDY BICHLBAUM

Andy Bichlbaum is a guy from Tucson, Arizona who has held a bunch of jobs and was fired from pretty much all of them.

He has a ‘terminal’ degree in experimental fiction writing, which enabled him to publish a couple of books that made him so rich and lazy that he took up computer programming to pass the time. While ‘working’ as a programmer he spent some time orchestrating the infamous ‘Simcopter Hack’ in which 80,000 copies of a macho video game were found – shortly after being shipped to stores – to be ‘enhanced’ with swarms of kissing boys.

Fired yet again, he became a celebrity among a small but interesting group of lazy queer hackers, and enjoyed the attention so much that he went on to found the notorious “anti-corporate corporation” RTMark.com, a website that matched illegal activist projects with investors and skilled helpers. This Web 0.5 site generated lots of attention in the media and was mistaken as art by a number of curators, who included it in the Whitney Biennial and other major shows. In the course of running RTMark, Andy and his co-conspirator Mike Bonanno accidentally started The Yes Men when a fake WTO website they created garnered them an invitation to speak at a law conference in Austria.

These days, Andy is writing a book, making political videos, and learning to weld.
MIKE BONANNO

MIKE BONANNO

Mike Bonanno is an associate professor of media arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In 2000, he received the Creative Capital award in the discipline of Emerging Fields. He is also a co-founder of RTmark and the recipient of a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship, granted for a project that used Global Positioning System (GPS) and other wireless technology to create a new medium with which to “view” his documentary Grounded, about an abandoned military base in Wendover, Utah.

As a student at Reed College, Mike organized a student group called Guerrilla Theater of the Absurd. They performed and documented “culture jamming” acts of protest, including Reverse Peristalsis Painters, where 24 people in suits stood outside the downtown venue of Dan Quayle’s fundraiser for Oregon senator Bob Packwood and drank ipecac, forcing themselves to vomit the red, white and blue remains of the mashed potatoes and food coloring they had consumed earlier; and a middle of the night contribution to the debate over renaming Portland’s Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, wherein the city awoke to find that all of the street signs and freeway exits for another major boulevard had been changed to read “Malcolm X Street.” Mike presented the Reed College Commencement Speech on May 19, 2014, where he announced that the college had decided to divest from fossil fuels, a decision the college had in fact not made.

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