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Shell Plays the ‘Cool Uncle’ Card: Luring Gen Z with Games and Influencers While Glossing Over Fossil Fuels

Shell, the ever-so-clever fox, asserts that their ad blitz is all about showcasing their role in both traditional fuels and renewables. After all, who wouldn’t want to know about the great things a fossil fuel giant is doing in the age of climate crisis?

Posted by John Donovan: 10 November 2023

In an epic display of keeping up with the kids, Shell, the oil and gas behemoth, is donning its hippest hat to woo the young’uns. What better way to endear oneself to a generation terrified of climate change than by hopping onto Instagram, gaming platforms, and influencer bandwagons?

“I am fuelled by the ocean,” proclaims Sage Erickson, a champion surfer with 310,000 Instagram disciples, in a Shell-backed video. She talks about instilling noble values in the youth, while artfully side-stepping any mention of Shell or its fossil fuel-centric agenda.

Meanwhile, Shell’s master plan includes hiring a “head of digital amplification platforms” for a dive into the digital world, from Meta to TikTok. Because if you can’t beat the climate-conscious Gen Z, join them in their digital playground, right?

The pièce de résistance? Shell’s ‘Ultimate Road Trips’ campaign, transforming Fortnite into a virtual Shell wonderland, and bankrolling influencers to broadcast their virtual racing exploits. Instagram isn’t left out, with ads pushing a Shell mobile driving game – because nothing says “we care about the environment” like promoting petrol stations in a video game.

And let’s chew on this: young people, notably the Gen Z crowd, are screaming from the rooftops about the climate emergency. Yet, here’s Shell trying to paint fossil fuels in a rosy hue.

“They’re targeting young people to build positive associations,” notes Duncan Meisel of Clean Creatives, while climate campaigners are calling for regulators to slam the brakes on this marketing frenzy, akin to restrictions on tobacco and booze ads.

But Shell, the ever-so-clever fox, asserts that their ad blitz is all about showcasing their role in both traditional fuels and renewables. After all, who wouldn’t want to know about the great things a fossil fuel giant is doing in the age of climate crisis?

In a stroke of marketing genius, Shell’s gaming initiatives emphasize petrol and motor oil, because who needs renewables when you can have more oil? And let’s not forget their whopping $270 million on global media, with a juicy 58% slice for digital media.

As the Advertising Standards Agency waves the red card at Shell for not providing enough context in their sustainability claims, Shell’s CEO Wael Sawan keeps the oil flowing, gas expanding, and the low-carbon portfolio trimming, all while wearing the badge of a “multi-energy” company committed to emissions reduction.

And let’s not overlook the argument of Geraint Lloyd-Taylor, a legal eagle, who muses that banning Shell’s self-promotion might not solve anything since, hey, we can’t just shut off fossil fuels overnight. But, as attitudes harden, who knows? Maybe Shell’s dance with the young and impressionable might face the music too.

Named parties are invited to point out for correction any factual inaccuracies.

The above information is partly sourced from this Financial Times article.

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