Peter York On Ads: Good ol' Exxon

It's on the side of the angels and there's not a Texan in sight

Who exactly is to blame for the oil price crisis? Just like the credit crunch, we want to know who to hate. (We can't string bankers up like Mussolini, but we'd like to make them do 10 years on a supermarket check-out.)

The obvious suspects are the ultimate suppliers, the Opec countries – mostly rather unsympathetic, particularly the Saudis with their dodgy defence contracts and their institutionalised misogyny.

One of the great 20th- century lessons was that owning significant oil deposits very ra rely does the host nation any real good. The wealth usually doesn't get distributed – it stays in very few hands. And it seems to suppress any native inventiveness the nation might have had.

Anyway, if it's not the oil producers doing something tricky, creating false scarcities to inflate the value of their reserves, it could be the demand side – all those new buyers in the hyper-growth economies of Asia.

But can any of this really explain the astonishing, devastating rise of oil prices from $70 a barrel last year to almost $140 last week?

Perhaps it's about speculation. Couldn't it have been more licensed betting by smart young men in Wall Street and the City who'll punt on anything if it will give them a turn?

And then there are the oil companies themselves – the ones that discover the stuff, extract it and sell it to you at the pumps. Their profits are getting more gigantic still.

The oil companies are fascinating – their scale, their global stretch, their automatic entrée to every power-broking darkened room in the world, and their disciplined secretiveness.

Of Fortune's list of the world's 10 largest corporations, six are oil groups. Despite their determinedly dour public stance, that order of money and power has to attract big stories and glamorous fictions, from 'Giant' to 'Dallas' to 'There Will Be Blood'.

ExxonMobil is the world's second-biggest company, and the most profitable. It's got a lot to defend and it spends a lot on defence, using advertising and PR to put its point across. One huge theme of its lobbying has been to sponsor scepticism about global warming by funding right-wing think-tanks and scientists to produce anything to suggest that it's all the invention of business-hating leftie tree-huggers. And stop the US signing up to the Kyoto treaty.

In the internet age, people sort of know this and the company has been the butt of massive criticism practically everywhere.

But its new corporate TV advertising shows sensible, co-operative ExxonMobil making progress against the world's problems. It showcases people with whom media folk can identify. It suggests non-specific sympathies that feel on the side of the angels.

The ad features two women and a British man. Nice-looking engineer Claudia Napolitano, elegantly shot in black and white, talks about the "challenges to develop energy in an environmentally friendly way". Then Alan Kelly, president of global lubricants, says: "We're going to need all sources of energy". Emma Cochrane, a natural gas specialist, says they've invented something tremendously useful.

Unlike the ExxonMobil main board, there's not a Texan Good Ol' Boy in sight; instead there are these three nice people you could meet at dinner in Blair's Islington, plus a lot of globally responsible backdrops – Asians on bikes and so forth – and the strapline, "Exxon-Mobil, taking on the world's toughest energy challenges". We all know it's greenwash – but the girls get in below the radar.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Life and Style
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Advertising and Marketing Communications Manager

£52000 - £58000 per annum + benefits, company car: Ashdown Group: Advertising ...

Retail Promotions Manager – TV and Film Catalogue

Up to £171 PAYE per day (equal to 40 – 45K ) : Sauce Recruitment: This is a te...

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

ERP Business/ Implementation Analyst

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This is an e...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on