In separate e-mails to news reporters around the world, one at midnight and the other at noon today, an environmental group has attempted an elaborate hoax in an attempt to spoof an advertising campaign launched today by Chevron Corp.
The first e-mail announced the "We Agree" advertising campaign and included a link to a fake website that purported to show Chevron admitting to environmental abuses in Ecuador. The press release included a quote, purportedly from a print adverstisement, saying: "For decades, oil companies like ours have worked in disadvantaged areas, influencing policy in order to do there what we can't do at home. It's time this changed."
Twelve hours later, a separate e-mail was sent, again purporting to be from Chevron, decrying the original hoax. "While such a campaign does exist, its official URL is Chevron.com/weagree. The advertisements released earlier today, at Chevron-weagree.com, were an elaborate subterfuge and must not be mistaken as real."
The hoax, by a group called Yes Men, was so elaborate that it included a link to a look-alike Chevron press web page, which itself included a link to a fake Advertising Age page, which purported to show that the advertising industry trade magazine was spoofed by the original hoax.
When I called an actual Chevron representative to check this out, he sent me the company's actual press release on the incident. It reads: "Chevron's new advertising campaign is meant to identify and highlight common ground on key energy issues so we can move forward safely, intelligently and collaboratively. Unfortunately, there are some that are not interested in engaging in a constructive dialogue, and instead have resorted to rhetoric and stunts. Today, activist groups have attempted to interrupt the conversation by issuing a fake press release and establishing a counterfeit website, which are not affiliated with Chevron."
To learn more about the actual advertising campaign -- in which the company attempts to directly address public concerns about oil companies, which have been heightened by the fallout from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico -- click here.
That's the real deal. I think.