The power of marketing in the wrong hands

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Marketing is powerful. It can convince us that we need a new house, a new car, a new phone, or even a new life. Marketing is so powerful it can completely change the public’s view of a company whose products, practices and very existence threatens our planet. The worst culprit for this? Fossil fuel companies.

The fossil fuel industry is one of the most powerful industries in the world. It influences governments, creates laws that benefit its interests, and spends millions on advertising each year. But what if all that was gone? What if fossil fuel companies couldn’t advertise on television? Or in magazines? Or on billboards? What if they were banned from advertising anywhere but their own websites? 

It’s not just an idea; it’s happening right now in France. The French government has decided that climate change is too important to let fossil fuel companies use advertising to make themselves look better; to appear as if they aren’t fatally damaging our planet.  


Fossil fuels: what's the problem?

Fossil fuels are responsible for causing climate change, which is killing people and animals, destroying homes and livelihoods, and threatening our very existence as a species on this planet. So why are these companies, who cause such visceral damage, to people, planet and wildlife allowed to cherry pick their image in advertising?    

Shell’s greenwashing advertising was recently the subject of a documentary fronted by provocatively silly comedian Joe Lycett. ‘Joe Lycett vs The Oil Giant’ investigates whether Shell is as eco-friendly as its advertising makes it out to be. The conclusion was, no fracking way! Their advertising and PR are littered with positive buzz words like ‘powering progress’ and cliched imagery of people happily ogling a wind turbine, an image that does not project the true reality of the brand.

Shells catastrophic effects on the environment cannot be swept under the rug with their tokenistic efforts to diversify their offer into renewables. In 2021, by their own reporting, Shell’s CO2 emissions were 60 million tonnes! This figure only considers their ‘emissions from facilities we operate’, let alone the actual usage of their products. That is the equivalent weight of more than 285,700 full grown adult Blue Whales – a figure 11 times more than the actual number of blue whales still alive on this planet! 


Calling for change

It’s time we stood up to these fossil fuel companies that have made billions from our planet and our people. It’s time they stopped advertising their products as if they’re not contributing to the destruction of our planet. To see real world change and hold these companies accountable, we need to call for change. Thankfully, some organisations are already doing this… 

On Friday (September 23rd 2022) Fossil Free London and Extinction Rebellion took to the streets to protest in the name of saving our planet. The activist groups, who always use non-violent civil disobedience, took their picket to the filming of a Shell advert being conducted by Unit 9 in East London.   

The protesters were initially told that the filming had been cancelled due to complaints from local tenants, but they soon caught wind that the film was going ahead in neighbouring Victoria Park. They successfully halted the shoot and saw the film crew off, preventing the production of yet more greenwashing in support of practises that cause such damage to our planet. In fact, the protestors from Fossil Free London made their own more truthful ad for Shell to use, watch here.

At Creature & Co. we have recently joined Clean Creatives, a network who are also committed to a future that doesn’t include promoting pollution. Clean Creatives asks the hard questions about the role of agencies in supporting the biggest climate polluters on the planet, encouraging individuals and companies to reject future contracts with fossil fuel companies.  

We’d like to see Unit 9 reconsider their collaboration with Shell and join us in our pursuit of responsible marketing. This is especially pertinent as in 2014, Unit 9 created an ad for Greenpeace calling for the end of the partnership between LEGO and Shell. 


Using advertising and marketing responsibly

Advertising and marketing are the most powerful tools in any brands’ arsenal – they have the power to capture hearts and change consumers’ minds. Effective marketing holds purpose at the centre of everything it does. Shell and many others like them, are shoe horning purpose marketing into their brands. Whether it be greenwashing, rainbow washing or ethical washing, advertising from brands who hold no greater purpose is transparent and empty.

Want to make sure your company is using its marketing power for good? Creature & Co. are here to help. We’re experts in helping brands gain consumer loyalty through purposeful creative. Our door is always open for a free, informative chat, and we’d love to hear from you: [email protected] 



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