Dow Chemical Continues an Ad Campaign in Poor Taste


It’s an interesting corporate decision to ‘reintroduce’ a hundred year-old company with great fanfare and a $20 million annual budget. Since Dow bought Union Carbide, it may well need a reintroduction. Union Carbide was responsible for a continuing disaster in Bhopal, India, after it released 27,000 tons of MIC gas from a pesticide plant in 1984.

My latest New Yorker carries a double-page spread showing runner’s
feet splashing water and a lot of Dow Chemical ad-speak about

The
Blue Planet Run. Runners helping the people who are helping the planet.
It’s just one of the things The Dow Chemical Company does when it looks
at life through the eyes of the Human Element.

Ah, the Human Element.
Vietnamgirlnapalm
Of course victims of napalm may not have any eyes, so we don’t really know how life looks through their eyes. Dow makes napalm, a sticky and incendiary liquid that kills people by burning them to death. Big profitmaker at Dow.

Protests
of Dow took place at many colleges but Dow’s board of directors voted
to continue production of napalm (after attempting to persuade the U.S.
Department of Defense to accept responsibility for napalm and exculpate
Dow’s management)-Wikipedia

For those of you who (like me) aren’t exactly sure what ‘exculpate’ means, the definition is ‘to pronounce not guilty of criminal charges.’
Hmmm. The Human Element campaign is just a year and a week
old at Dow. It made me angry the first time I saw it.  Strangely,
during the year it’s been running, I’ve not yet gotten used to the glib
passing-off and avoidance of corporate history.

Midland,
MI – June 20, 2006 – The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW) today
unveiled a bold new U.S. advertising campaign — “The Human Element” —
that reintroduces the company and announces its vision of addressing
some of the most pressing economic, social and environmental concerns
facing the global community in the coming decade. (Dow web site)

Dowhumanelement1
It’s an interesting corporate decision to ‘reintroduce’ a hundred year-old company with great fanfare and a $20 million annual budget. Since Dow bought Union Carbide, it may well need a reintroduction. Union Carbide was responsible for a continuing disaster in Bhopal, India, after it released 27,000 tons of MIC gas from a pesticide plant in 1984.

Amnesty
International cites 22,000 total deaths as its conservative estimate
and Bhopal is frequently cited as the world’s worst industrial
disaster.

Dow says it didn’t happen on their watch.

“This
is more than an ad campaign to our company. It is a statement to the
world and, more importantly, to ourselves about the future direction of
our business,” said Patti Temple Rocks, Dow vice president of global
communications and reputation. “It will be our calling card to people
around the world who care about the future relationship between
businesses, society and the environment. It reflects our intention as a
company to prioritize the things we do to advance innovation and focus
the people and resources of Dow on solving human problems.”

Most
companies have a VP of global communications. Not all that many include
‘reputation’ in the title. Drop a calling-card over at the closest VA
hospital, Patti. Guys there, our guys, are still fighting the affects
of Agent Orange from thirty years ago.
Admelmozumwalt
Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, commander of U.S. Navy in Vietnam and member of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged that the  government’s exoneration
of Agent Orange was “politically motivated to cover up the true effects of dioxin, and manipulate public perception.”

“Together,
the advertising and public relations efforts will combine to reinforce
Dow’s commitment — first articulated by Dow president, CEO and chairman
Andrew N. Liveris during an announcement to the NGO and public policy
communities last month — to engage the challenges of global energy
supply, climate change, affordable and adequate food supply, decent
housing, sustainable water supplies; and improved personal health and
safety. These commitments and Dow’s progress against them are outlined
in the company’s 2015 sustainability goals and are available to the
public at www.dowattainability.com.”

Dowliveriswife
Not that corporate culture can’t change, but I find it personally
appalling to have to sit through a 90-second TV ad extravaganza,
unctuously voice-overed by some dude who impresses, then re-impresses
the Human Element that is such an integral part of the daily corporate culture at one of the world’s truly impressive polluters.
Dowbhopal_2
It may well be that Dow has killed, maimed, disfigured, blinded and
permanently wrecked the lives of more people on the face of the earth
than any other corporate entity.

“The
Human Element advertising creative was developed featuring real people
rather than professional actors and includes dramatic environmental and
human imagery (a blacksmith in Mexico, children at an orphanage in
Namibia, an artist at his studio in Prague) gathered on location on
four continents.”

Looking at life through the eyes of the Human Element is a fraudulent play on words.
Highlighted by children in orphanages in Bhopal, the view back from the other side is too painful to contemplate.
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