DOING SOME DIGGING Sustainable Development, Shell Style

Kudos to SHELL CANADA for its television ads that underscore its commitment to sustainable development for its oil...
Kudos to SHELL CANADA for its television ads that underscore its commitment to sustainable development for its oil sands and petroleum resources. Two 60-second ads are running frequently in prime time, and they are compelling compelling enough that I planted my teen-aged son on the couch to watch them (accompanied by my shouts of "I know that guy!").

The first ad that caught my attention featured two men driving through the Muskeg River mine north of Fort McMurray, Alta., discussing resources and reclamation. The men are Dave Boucher, an aboriginal and owner of a local trucking company, and mine manager Jeff Stibbard (the fellow I interviewed last year). The dialogue stresses the partnership between Shell ("we mine it and refine it") and local enterprise ("and we reclaim it"). The same words echo the fact that there are two sides to the company philosophythe side that creates wealth today and the side that shares that wealth for the benefit of future generations. The tag line says it all: "Because they're not just digging for oil. They're laying the foundations of a future."

The other ad features a young woman, a self-described incurable romantic, and her fight to protect a fragile environment from the destructive search for oil and gas. The scenery is breathtaking, perhaps the old growth forests of the British Columbia seen from the banks of their waterways and from a helicopter in all their splendour. Besides the preservation of nature, the narrator tells us that her mission is also to protect to local culture from the "shock of the new." The kicker comes when viewers learn she is not at war with the oil company, she is the oil company. And the tag line: "Romantic? Certainly. Incurable? Let's hope so."

Television viewers are often seen as a mindless lot. Given much of the popular fare that is offered, who can blame them? We become even more jaded and skeptical watching advertisements that we know exaggerate the wonderful-ness of the products and services they extol. I, too, have spent many hours gazing at mind-numbing blather rolling across the small screen. The TV has a well-deserved reputation as an "idiot box".

I mention the foregoing because it is noteworthy, indeed refreshing, to witness 60 seconds of superior production values shape Shell's memorable message. The ads are straightforward and, as we in the mining industry know, truthful. Congratulations to the company that gives us such gems in a heap of lumpish offerings.


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