Shell’s Eureka Film – Utter Greenwashing or Interesting Progress?

home-eureka.pngA while ago I got a copy of Wired Magazine with an interesting DVD inserted into the package. It turned out to be a highly polished 10-minute advertisement/film for Shell entitled “Eureka”. You can watch the whole thing yourself below.
What first struck me about the film is that the production value is incredibly high, and the story they weave is actually compelling and mostly believable, though painfully cheesy. It tells the story of Jaap Van Ballegooijen, a Shell engineer who apparently came up with a less invasive method of drilling for oil – inspired no less, by his son’s drinking of a milkshake with a “bendy straw”.
The message, of course, is that heroic Shell engineers will keep devising ways to get at oil no matter what, and the kids will be alright in the end, and you really don’t need to worry about anything. No mention about the actual burning of the oil and any of the effects thereof. These guys are too practical for all that…

Jeff Osborne makes an excellent observation about Shell, stating that in an organization so hugely complex, odd decisions are bound to happen from time to time, but respect needs to be paid to the experience and planning of their myriad experts.
But still… I can only imagine what this film cost to produce, plus the cost of putting DVD copies in countless magazines, and running clip after clip on TV. And what’s the real benefit? Presumably the idea was to get a lot of people to feel good about filling up at Shell stations. Personally, I’d be a lot more impressed to see how the company intends to move away from oil altogether and still maintain itself as a successful and respected company – get Jaag to tackle that one and the praise and profits the company will receive will be immeasurably higher, and not cost a dime of PR budget.
I’m surprised we haven’t seen parodies galore pop up… Here’s the whole thing:

The official Shell site is here.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

3 responses

  1. From what I gather, Shell is a collection of individual operating companies that happen to have the same name, but are otherwise rather loosely affiliated and autonomous. (As in the Newhart gag, “This is my brother, Larry. This is my other brother, Larry.”) That seems to result in some strangely contradictory behaviors.

    Perhaps that’s why the forward-thinking scenario planners from the head office can produce a global warming future scenario for the US Pentagon that’s too realistic for the military to acknowledge sponsoring, yet some goons in divisions on other continents do nasty things that create a deserved bad reputation.

    With that sort of Jekyll and Hyde behavior as a history, it’s probably prudent to wonder, as you do, whether this video comes from the Jekyll division or Hyde division.

  2. I got the video too – as a supporter of rainforests and indigenous rights, it’s challenging to fuel up around town (San Francisco). Chevron, with a $6 billion lawsuit for its destruction of the Ecuadorian Amazon is a definite NO.
    ConocoPhillips, which operates the “76” gas stations also has a poor track record in the Amazon.
    There isn’t a BP gas station in sight – otherwise I’d fuel up there.
    I don’t always have the luxury of driving out of my way to a random bumf*ck gas station for gas. Shell might be “greenwash”, but is there better choice?
    Would love to know!

  3. Lorna: I got sucked into “brand loyalty” to BP via the 5% rebate on their Chase Visa card. There are a lot of BP’s here in the ghetto, where gas and houses are cheap and everything else is not. Now we learn that BP has plans to haul Canadian tar sands by train from Manitoba all the way down to Gary, Indiana, where they will refine it and dump a whole lot of ammonia into the recently cleaned Lake Michigan. Chicago’s not thrilled — a significant part of its gold-collar attraction is their gorgeous playfront on the lake — and neither is Michigan. But Indiana just loves the thought of 80 new jobs, and the EPA has said Hey, whatever. Me, I’m going to hold out for all-electric vehicles.

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