Climate change legislation, media coverage drives oil companies’ ad spending, study finds

Brown University

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Major oil corporations tend to spend the most money on advertising and promotional campaigns at moments when they face negative media coverage and/or the threat of increased federal regulation, a new study finds.

Robert Brulle, a Brown University visiting professor based at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, led an analysis concluding that investments in advertising and promotion by major oil companies directly correspond to Congressional action and media coverage on climate change.

The findings, published on Saturday, Dec. 14 in Climatic Change, suggest that oil company executives target their promotional efforts in ways designed to influence policymakers and to shape the public climate-change debate.

“All corporations rely on advertising to burnish their brands and minimize damage to their reputation,” Brulle said. “But this analysis, combined with previous research, demonstrates that ad campaigns in the oil and gas sector are specifically intended to influence how the public and lawmakers think about the climate crisis and whether they act to address it. It shows that the rise and fall of spending levels is directly related to whether or not climate legislation is being considered.”

Working with Melissa Aronczyk of Rutgers University and Jason Carmichael of McGill University, Brulle analyzed the annual corporate promotion advertising space purchases of ExxonMobil, BP-Amoco, Chevron-Texaco, Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips between 1986 and 2015. The researchers focused on four major factors that prior scholarship suggests might influence these companies’ promotional expenditures: Congressional attention to climate change, corporate reputation, media attention on climate change, and public concern about climate change.

To gauge the extent to which each factor affects advertising spending, the researchers collected data on hearings, bills, treaties and other climate change-related legislation; consulted Fortune’s annual Corporate Reputation Index; measured levels of climate change-related media coverage; and tracked the timing of major oil spills and the release of major reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Brulle said the team found that two of the four factors motivated the majority of oil companies’ advertising spending: climate change-related media coverage and Congressional action.

“It seems their objective in advertising is to deflect criticism and avoid legislative action that attempts to address climate change,” Brulle said. “That suggests that their primary motivation is to avoid the potential of additional regulatory scrutiny.”

The findings also suggest, Brulle said, that oil executives are less concerned with public mood on climate change and with the release of major climate change reports, which invariably portray their companies in a negative light. Brulle said the latter finding was consistent with his own previous research, which indicates that climate change reports do little to sway public opinion, and are thus unlikely to spur media coverage and Congressional action.

The analysis comes as promotional spending by major oil companies reaches an all-time high. Between 2008 and 2016, the five largest oil companies spent an average of $217 million annually on advertising. By contrast, average annual ad expenditures were $102 million between 1997 and 2004 and $35 million between 1986 and 1996.

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The researchers’ work was supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (No. 1558264).

From EurekAlert!

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icisil
December 18, 2019 10:08 am

Studies like make it obvious that there’s just too much grant money available.

Kevin McNeill
Reply to  icisil
December 18, 2019 10:35 am

My thought exactly, anyone interested in marketing could have told you this in a two minute conversation

Reply to  Kevin McNeill
December 18, 2019 2:53 pm

Yep, my first thought was “well, duh!”

MarkMcD
Reply to  icisil
December 18, 2019 3:39 pm

Because Corporations not liked by the rabid left are not allowed to defend their position – apparently they are meant to just let the church of AGW destroy them and ruin the lives of millions of investors and billions of humans.

MarkW
Reply to  MarkMcD
December 18, 2019 5:56 pm

The left in general, not just the rabid ones, don’t believe that anyone has the right to disagree with them.

icisil
Reply to  icisil
December 18, 2019 5:29 pm

Missing word above: Studies like this make it obvious …

More examples of wasted taxpayer money:

Economics professor Linda Thunstrom led a study at the University of Wyoming to place a monetary value on “thoughts and prayers”

NY univ. Promotes paper comparing cow insemination to ‘rape,’ milking cows to ‘sexual abuse’

https://www.zerohedge.com/political/spongebob-tom-brady-cow-rape-5-most-insane-academic-works-2019

Derry O Donovan
Reply to  icisil
December 19, 2019 5:44 am

I wonder did they include in their analysis the costs of ExxonMobil recent court case?

Daniel J Hawkins
December 18, 2019 10:16 am

Wow. Next to the impeachment clown show, this has to be the biggest nothing-burger of the year.

George Daddis
December 18, 2019 10:32 am

Is it true that Brown University is pushing for a new event in the next Olympics – Conclusion Jumping?

“It seems their objective in advertising is to deflect criticism and avoid legislative action that attempts to address climate change…..”

Do they really think a broad nationwide advertising campaign is going to influence Congressional politicians more than the same amount spent on K Street lobbyists and campaign contributions?

Isn’t it more logical to assume that when regulatory and activist activity heats up, they want to counter adverse public opinion with touchy-feely commercials?

commieBob
Reply to  George Daddis
December 18, 2019 12:22 pm

It costs a bundle to buy the paper, so I’m just guessing here.

When is there not media coverage of climate change? When is there not pending climate change legislation somewhere?

I sure wouldn’t bet the farm based on what the abstract says. They could have fooled around with the selection criteria until they got some kind of slightly positive correlation.

Maybe some proper statistician will read the paper and prove me wrong. Maybe, but I’d bet a coffee that I’m not.

Reply to  George Daddis
December 18, 2019 2:31 pm

George said, “Is it true that Brown University is pushing for a new event in the next Olympics – Conclusion Jumping?”

Thanks. That made me laugh.

Regards,
Bob

nw sage
Reply to  Bob Tisdale
December 18, 2019 6:40 pm

Me too – I can think of several candidates for the competition.

Steve Keohane
December 18, 2019 10:45 am

But this analysis, combined with previous research, demonstrates that ad campaigns in the oil and gas sector are specifically intended to influence how the public and lawmakers think So they examined all other sectors of commercial sales, and found this unique to the oil and gas sector.

niceguy
Reply to  Steve Keohane
December 18, 2019 11:52 am

I’m pretty sure that trying to convince people is hacking of minds.

And obstruction of different opinions.

We are a Republic not a Monarchy no one is above the law Putin would be proud of you think of the children impeach Big Oil.

n.n
Reply to  niceguy
December 18, 2019 1:04 pm

Not even a democracy. A constitutional republic.

Philo
Reply to  Steve Keohane
December 19, 2019 5:38 am

“Duh”! It would take an academic to actually publish a study such as this.

wadesworld
Reply to  Steve Keohane
December 19, 2019 6:55 am

Uh, I can guarantee you every sector considers public and legislative opinion when designing ad campaigns.

Well, except maybe Gillette.

ResourceGuy
December 18, 2019 10:46 am

Let’s see the followup research on the massive media push across every state media outlet in promoting the Paris Climate Agreement in the months before the big event. In my area it looked like a lot of ad spending as news stories went out from a vast array of small and medium market groups to lay the disinformation foundation. It was a lot more than a handful of oil companies could ever pull off in their efforts.

Doc Chuck
December 18, 2019 10:48 am

What?! Companies protecting their interests from assault by systematic prevaricators. There’s no excuse for such risk management efforts? Nefarious, I tell you. We must convince them to lay down their arms and just accede to our demands (which happen to include their extinction, by the way).

niceguy
Reply to  Doc Chuck
December 18, 2019 11:47 am

Can’t do that. That’s obstruction of (future) law. Big Oil is not above the law!

And it’s obstruction of activism.

Also, I have children (age … and …) and I have told that Big Oil is a urgent threat something something.

No one is above the law!

Dan Sudlik
December 18, 2019 10:48 am

Where is my money? Show me the money. Do you have my money? (Is sarc necessary?)

Steve Z
December 18, 2019 10:51 am

Exxon-Mobil has run quite a few ads about using algae to generate fuel. Although there are some small projects to bubble CO2-rich flue gas from power plants through transparent tubes containing water and algae, the amount of fuel produced from such ideas is a tiny fraction of a percent of the fuel obtained from petroleum drilling and fracking.

The ads are a way of paying lip service to the global warming scaremongers, without any serious change in their bread-and-butter industry.

Reply to  Steve Z
December 18, 2019 1:12 pm
JimB
Reply to  Dan Pangburn
December 18, 2019 3:01 pm

This will last until they run a financial study. Hopefully, this Clint disaster cr*p will have by then run its course.

Reply to  JimB
December 18, 2019 3:04 pm

Climate, dammit, climate disaster. This damn iPad refuses to leave my texts alon.

MarkW
Reply to  JimB
December 19, 2019 10:12 am

Clint disaster?

I thought you were talking about his new movie.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Dan Pangburn
December 18, 2019 4:37 pm

And when the algae demand to be paid, we’re doomed.

David Chappell
Reply to  Dan Pangburn
December 18, 2019 8:14 pm

Isn’t that sexual abuse of algae – forcing them to breed?

Sheri
December 18, 2019 10:58 am

Climate change attention is most dominent when an election is coming, so I guess that means the evil climate change people just want to be elected. Interesting.

John McClure
Reply to  Sheri
December 18, 2019 11:25 am

Hey Sheri, Happy Holidays!

Noticed, you’re launching a climate site for kids.

Count me in, I’m retired and would love to help!

Best to You and Yous,
John

Reply to  John McClure
December 18, 2019 2:34 pm

John, do you have a link to Sheri’s website for kids?

Regards,
Bob

John McClure
December 18, 2019 11:01 am

Its been status quo, 1970-present, politicians creat crisis to motivate voters without regard.

The tragic aspects, they don’t care about constituents, the potential good, nor our Nation States well being.

Absolute Power in Politics corrupts Absolutely.

It’s time to retire the UNFCCC for the good of all and vote Climate Clowns out of office.

Petit_Barde
December 18, 2019 11:20 am

The Institute at Brown for Environment and Society’s idiocy is skyrocketing twice as fast as other Institutes !

John M
December 18, 2019 12:00 pm

Next, they’ll do a study of University Press Releases when government funding for “Higher Education” is being debated.

Joel Snider
December 18, 2019 12:03 pm

It’s time for Americans to relearn that appeasement never works, except to embolden those determined to destroy you anyway.

Don Vickers
December 18, 2019 1:03 pm

The fact that the researchers applied for such a grant is not surprising ( that is the nature of the beast ), however the person who approved the grant should be held accountable for wasting the foundations’ money on a foregone conclusion that blind Freddy and his dog could have seen and articulated on the back of a napkin during a liquid lunch at the local tavern.

Ron Long
December 18, 2019 1:43 pm

You need an NSF Grant to discover that people/companies defend themselves when attacked? All of the Watts followers could have told them that for free. Wow!

Rudolf Huber
December 18, 2019 2:21 pm

Advertising by fossil fuel companies does not even amount to a fly dumping on the mountains of cash the green alarmist crowd throws into influencing public opinion. What fossil fuel needs is taking a stance in a courageous debate that will last for a long time. As long as fossil fuel company CEO’s sing the song of the green-industrial-complex, anything they spend on advertising is good for naught. This is not going to be a pleasant Sunday afternoon walk in the park. That’s what they are used to and that’s why the other side has them on the chicken run. Principled opposition is needed, not some spineless greenwashers.

David Long
December 18, 2019 2:54 pm

As always in the climate alarmist business, correlation equals causation.

DBidwell
December 18, 2019 5:05 pm

And Anheuser Busch spent. $1.5 billion in the US in 2017. So why is there an issue?
https://www.statista.com/statistics/264998/ad-spend-of-selected-beer-manufacturers-in-the-us/

beng135
December 19, 2019 6:38 am

The US goobermint, using the blame-stream media that they essentially own, spends orders-of-magnitude more money on “ads” that favor their marxist leanings & interests. All the companies in the world don’t have as much money as the US goobermint (looted from the US taxpayer and bought by the rich billionaires & money-sheltering/laundering NGOs (aka “Foundations”). And the goobermint can also print up via the US Treasury any more that it might need.

Going after “Big Oil” (oowww, so scary!) is a “look at the squirrel” technique, while a stampeding herd of elephants is right behind you.

Michael S. Kelly
December 23, 2019 1:59 am

I love how the article sneaks in the concept of “climate crisis” as an accepted fact of nature. It automatically discredits anyone who expresses the least skepticism of any aspect of the CAGW dogma. Yet I would challenge anyone (Stokes, Mosher, griff) to point to a single, verified case of harm that has been caused by a single, verified change in the climate. Then I would challenge them to demonstrate that the change they allege was absolutely the result of human activity of any kind.

Johann Wundersamer
January 1, 2020 1:06 am

Climate change legislation, media coverage drives oil companies’ ad spending, study finds

Charles Rotter / 2 weeks ago December 18, 2019
Brown University

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Major oil corporations tend to spend the most money on advertising and promotional campaigns at moments when they face negative media coverage and/or the threat of increased federal regulation, a new study finds.
____________________________________

Leaves some questions:

– how much money spent “Major oil corporations on advertising and promotional campaigns at moments when they face negative media coverage” brought by

“Charles Rotter / Brown University at PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University]” –

to prevent further racketeering by

“Charles Rotter / Brown University at PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University]”

____________________________________

– what other industries are

“Charles Rotter / Brown University at PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University]”

racketeering for advertising and promotional campaigns at moments when they face negative media coverage” brought by

“Charles Rotter / Brown University at PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University]”

____________________________________

Is WUWT the only racketeering platform for

“Charles Rotter / Brown University at PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University]” and ilk.

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