‘Like a tobacco account on your CV’: Woolley and Noble on Shell creative pitch

Shell - industry backlash

“Good creatives don’t want to sully their book with this kind of work.”

Shell Energy is pitching its creative account, but it has not come without backlash from industry heavyweights like Darren Woolley, who says “fossil fuels are becoming the new tobacco.”

I know the money will be good,” Mediaweek’s marketing and agency editor-at-large and founder and CEO of TrinityP3 Marketing Management Consultancy said. “But they’re [agencies that pitch] going to find it increasingly difficult to get people to work on that type of account.”

Woolley told Mediaweek that the industry needs to be “very clear about the difference between working for a client and actively greenwashing the client’s claims.” And agencies pitching should not delude themselves if they think they can help the client “from the inside”.

“Any agency that is going for this business has to be very clear that they are going to be working with an organisation that is currently contributing huge amounts to the climate crisis.

“They’re getting employed to help spin this to help their client. I’ve heard many agencies say they we’re working with them [the client] so that they can understand where the consumer is and do more to reduce and I go ‘yeah, right’.”

The Shell sub-brand is the petroleum company’s renewables and energy solutions business in Australia, which claims to “work with customers on their decarbonisation journey.”

Nous, a Brisbane-based creative, branding and digital marketing agency, worked with Shell Energy on campaigns, including its Net Zero work in 2022. Creative agency Sense also worked on the company’s national campaign for its fuel brand, Shell V-Power, in 2021.
Belinda Noble
, founder of climate activist group Comms Declare, added that “good creatives don’t want to sully their book with this kind of work. They want to work for exciting new companies of the future. Having this in your book is like a tobacco account on your CV. It’s not something that I think a creative at the top of their game would want to do.
“Anyone thinking of pitching for this account has to remind themselves that they’re the possibly complicit in enhancing the brand of a corporation that’s doubling down on oil and gas in the middle of a climate crisis.”
The Shell pitch generated a huge reaction from the industry online. Noble said that agencies looking to pitch should “prepare themselves for a backlash from not just inside their own agency, from staff that care about climate change, but from the industry at large, and of course, environmentalists.”
The agency that wins the Shell account, Noble said, will need to “tread a very, very fine line” when making any green claims on behalf of Shell under new greenwashing laws that call out high emissions industries.
Woolley concluded that “the industry needs to move forward” and said while petrol will still need to be sold, it can be done without lying to people.
“Don’t make claims that are just blatant lies. Truth well told should be the minimum.”

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