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Page added on October 30, 2008

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Oil giants try to polish image before latest gusher

African children smile for the camera, a youngster sips pink medicine from a spoon and a doctor explains his part in a venture to fight malaria, the No. 1 killer on the continent. It’s an effort, he says, that will help save hundreds of thousands of lives.

The images look like something out of a health documentary, but it’s a commercial for oil giant Exxon Mobil, for which the doctor is medical-projects director.
Exxon’s other new ads talk about efforts such as its breakthrough technology for hybrid-electric car batteries. Chevron is showcasing its geothermal operations. Of the energy challenge, one ad says, “This isn’t just about oil companies. This is about you and me.”

The world’s best-known oil companies are pouring on the charm as they get ready to parade another round of fat profits before a public that feels suddenly poorer. The spotlight will shine on Exxon today and Chevron on Friday.

Such advertising makes sense after a summer with oil at nearly $150 a barrel and a fall likely to bring renewed scrutiny of the companies’ investments and tax breaks.

But when they spend their money, it’s less about you and me than about their shareholders. In many respects, industry experts note, what’s good for Big Oil’s bottom line isn’t necessarily good for Joe Q. Jetta.

Seattle Times

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