Friday, June 29, 2007

Dow Chemical Continues an Ad Campaign in Poor Taste

It's an interesting corporate decision to ‘reintroduce’ a hundred year-old company with great fanfare and a $20 million annual budget. Since Dow bought Union Carbide, it may well need a reintroduction. Union Carbide was responsible for a continuing disaster in Bhopal, India, after it released 27,000 tons of MIC gas from a pesticide plant in 1984.

My latest New Yorker carries a double-page spread showing runner’s feet splashing water and a lot of Dow Chemical ad-speak about
The Blue Planet Run. Runners helping the people who are helping the planet. It’s just one of the things The Dow Chemical Company does when it looks at life through the eyes of the Human Element.
Ah, the Human Element.
Vietnamgirlnapalm Of course victims of napalm may not have any eyes, so we don’t really know how life looks through their eyes. Dow makes napalm, a sticky and incendiary liquid that kills people by burning them to death. Big profitmaker at Dow.
Protests of Dow took place at many colleges but Dow's board of directors voted to continue production of napalm (after attempting to persuade the U.S. Department of Defense to accept responsibility for napalm and exculpate Dow's management)-Wikipedia
For those of you who (like me) aren't exactly sure what 'exculpate' means, the definition is 'to pronounce not guilty of criminal charges.'
Hmmm. The Human Element campaign is just a year and a week old at Dow. It made me angry the first time I saw it.  Strangely, during the year it's been running, I've not yet gotten used to the glib passing-off and avoidance of corporate history.
Midland, MI - June 20, 2006 - The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW) today unveiled a bold new U.S. advertising campaign — “The Human Element” — that reintroduces the company and announces its vision of addressing some of the most pressing economic, social and environmental concerns facing the global community in the coming decade. (Dow web site)
Dowhumanelement1 It's an interesting corporate decision to ‘reintroduce’ a hundred year-old company with great fanfare and a $20 million annual budget. Since Dow bought Union Carbide, it may well need a reintroduction. Union Carbide was responsible for a continuing disaster in Bhopal, India, after it released 27,000 tons of MIC gas from a pesticide plant in 1984.
Amnesty International cites 22,000 total deaths as its conservative estimate and Bhopal is frequently cited as the world's worst industrial disaster.
Dow says it didn’t happen on their watch.
“This is more than an ad campaign to our company. It is a statement to the world and, more importantly, to ourselves about the future direction of our business,” said Patti Temple Rocks, Dow vice president of global communications and reputation. “It will be our calling card to people around the world who care about the future relationship between businesses, society and the environment. It reflects our intention as a company to prioritize the things we do to advance innovation and focus the people and resources of Dow on solving human problems.”
Most companies have a VP of global communications. Not all that many include 'reputation' in the title. Drop a calling-card over at the closest VA hospital, Patti. Guys there, our guys, are still fighting the affects of Agent Orange from thirty years ago.
Admelmozumwalt Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, commander of U.S. Navy in Vietnam and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged that the  government's exoneration of Agent Orange was “politically motivated to cover up the true effects of dioxin, and manipulate public perception.”
“Together, the advertising and public relations efforts will combine to reinforce Dow’s commitment — first articulated by Dow president, CEO and chairman Andrew N. Liveris during an announcement to the NGO and public policy communities last month — to engage the challenges of global energy supply, climate change, affordable and adequate food supply, decent housing, sustainable water supplies; and improved personal health and safety. These commitments and Dow’s progress against them are outlined in the company’s 2015 sustainability goals and are available to the public at www.dowattainability.com.”
Dowliveriswife Not that corporate culture can’t change, but I find it personally appalling to have to sit through a 90-second TV ad extravaganza, unctuously voice-overed by some dude who impresses, then re-impresses the Human Element that is such an integral part of the daily corporate culture at one of the world’s truly impressive polluters.
Dowbhopal_2 It may well be that Dow has killed, maimed, disfigured, blinded and permanently wrecked the lives of more people on the face of the earth than any other corporate entity.
“The Human Element advertising creative was developed featuring real people rather than professional actors and includes dramatic environmental and human imagery (a blacksmith in Mexico, children at an orphanage in Namibia, an artist at his studio in Prague) gathered on location on four continents.”
Looking at life through the eyes of the Human Element is a fraudulent play on words.
Highlighted by children in orphanages in Bhopal, the view back from the other side is too painful to contemplate.
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