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Corporate promotion and climate change: an analysis of key variables affecting advertising spending by major oil corporations, 1986–2015

Abstract

Advertising by fossil fuel companies is a ubiquitous element of modern political life. Promotional campaigns in the service of a corporation’s position toward environmental issues such as climate change are prevalent in the oil and gas sectors, where corporate image is seen as a valuable asset in managing risk, controlling negative media attention, and overcoming resistance by antagonistic civil society groups. This article assesses advertising expenditures by five major oil and gasoline companies for the time period 1986 to 2015. We examine four major factors that may influence spending on advertising by the oil and gas sectors: (1) the overall reputation of the oil and gas sector; (2) congressional attention to climate change; (3) media attention to climate change; and (4) a series of control variables including major oil spills, the publication of major climate change reports, overall public concern about climate change, GDP, and oil prices. We find that the factors that most influence corporate promotional spending are media coverage and congressional attention to the issue of climate change.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqQq984RY_k

  2. 2.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bReBO55XzZc

  3. 3.

    https://www.ispot.tv/ad/AwKw/shell-a-breath-of-fresh-air-featuring-kiki-sukezane

  4. 4.

    http://mediamatters.org/research/2016/04/25/study-cnn-viewers-see-far-more-fossil-fuel-advertising-climate-change-reporting/209985

  5. 5.

    Issue advertising is also sometimes referred to as marketplace advocacy, in reference to the idea that unlike product/service advertising and image advertising, issue advertising represents an effort to “protect the company’s market by influencing a legislative outcome or a policy debate” (Gaither and Gaither 2016; Miller and Lellis 2016).

  6. 6.

    1977_Schmertz_Mobil Oil_Speech_PRSA171–5.pdf

  7. 7.

    Data obtained from Kantar Media Ad$pender data base for the time period 1995 to 2015. Data from 1986 to 1994 obtained from the predecessor publication to the Kantar Media database, The Advertising Red Books. Only corporate promotion spending was counted. Figure represents this data, adjusted for inflation in constant 2015 dollars. Totals for corporations include previously separate corporations. See Table S-1 in Supplemental Material for data compilation.

  8. 8.

    See Supplemental Material for full description of the construction of this scale.

  9. 9.

    See Supplemental Material for full description of the construction of this scale.

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Brulle, R.J., Aronczyk, M. & Carmichael, J. Corporate promotion and climate change: an analysis of key variables affecting advertising spending by major oil corporations, 1986–2015. Climatic Change 159, 87–101 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02582-8

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Keywords

  • Major oil corporations
  • Climate change
  • Advertising