Images of oily water offshore, and washing up in marshes, have played out as companies like Chevron continue to report huge quarterly profits. So Chevron launched a massive public relations ad campaign to counter critics' charges.
Chevron's new ad campaign is an attempt by the oil giant to address some of the most common criticisms against it. According to Chevron, the real people in the ads, asking the tough questions are not actors.
"The idea behind the campaign is we hear what people say about oil companies, that they should invest in renewable, that they should support the communities where they operate, that they should grow good jobs and communities and we agree with all those things," Morgan Crinklaw from Chevron said.
The "We Agree" ads come six months after the massive BP oil spill -- although Chevron maintains their campaign was conceived long before the Gulf disaster. The San Ramon-based company spent about $90 million last year on U.S. advertising.
Professor Joanna lee chairs the Marketing Department at Cal State East Bay and she believes the chevron spots are more than just talk.
"It does talk about reinvestment to the community and the renewable energy and technology and education and I don't think the company has any choice but to back it up with their action," she said.
But critics say Chevron's attempt to appear hard on itself is self-serving.
"Chevron's spending millions of dollars just trying to bolster their image instead of investing money in actually effecting real change in cleaning up their act and their operations," Amazon Watch spokesperson Mitch Anderson said.
To counter the Chevron spots, an activist group called Yes-Men created spoof ads to highlight what they consider Chevron's environmental and human rights abuses in places like Ecuador.
"The idea of this campaign is to really address and have a conversation about energy issues. Unfortunately there are some groups that want to interrupt that conversation," Crinklaw said.
Chevron called the spoof ads, "expected" and "illegal," since they used the company's logo and imagery. Chevron is moving to have those ads removed from the Internet.