Sometimes people say it best when they say nothing at all. At least that’s what Pattison Outdoor Advertising thinks. but, sitting things out and refusing to explain why they won’t allow Greenpeace to put up a billboard touting the benefits of solar energy only serves to make them look too afraid of potentially offending the big petroleum industries in oil rich Alberta.
The ad in question features the text “When there is a huge solar energy spill it’s just called a nice day. Green jobs, not more oil spills,” set against an orange background. Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema has stated that he’s surprised the ad was rejected considering its inoffensive subject matter. But Pattison has refused to explain why the billboard was rejected.
Although it’s true that the ad does little to offend anybody, and it’s quite witty and clever compared to other ads bashing the oil industry, the billboard comes on the heels of a massive oil spill north of Sundre that leaked into the Red Deer River.
With the recent oil spill in mind, it could be argued that there’s a “too soon” kind of sting to the message the billboard is trying to convey. However, that Pattison has refused to give any explanation at all is unacceptable, especially considering that Greenpeace and Pattison have worked together in the past on other billboard campaigns. Greenpeace was able to display an ad criticizing the cod industry in 2009.
With Pattison’s refusal to comment, we may never know why the ad was rejected. But at first glance it’s hard to not see this as a fear of offending the oil industry of Alberta and any other clients Pattison has that are related to the industry.
What makes Pattison’s decision so ridiculous is that the ad was pretty much harmless. It did target the oil industry and put the blame on them for the recent oil spills in Alberta. But the oil industry is no stranger to negative press, and much worse has been said about them compared to what was in Greenpeace’s recent ad. In fact, the group Vote Solar put up an identical billboard in California in 2010 without any opposition. And in the past, Pattison has had no problem with pro-oil billboards. Added to the fact that Greenpeace and Pattison have worked together in the past, and that Pattison has no stated policy about displaying political billboards, there shouldn’t have been a problem with this ad.
If Pattison has a legitimate reason to oppose the billboard — and they must feel they do — they need to come out and state their case. Their continued silence only serves to make them look more and more hypocritical in this situation while giving Greenpeace more positive publicity. If they genuinely felt uncomfortable with the subject matter of the ad, it would help their public image by explaining why. Their explanation might not satisfy everyone, but it certainly wouldn’t make them look as two-faced as they do now.
Unfortunately for Greenpeace, Pattison has a 55 per cent market share of all out-of-home advertising in Canada. There are other options to get Greenpeace’s message across such as protests, flyers and other forms of more non-traditional advertising — but with Pattison’s majority share of the market, It’s going to be hard for Greenpeace to get an ad up where it will get the most views.
When comes down to it, Pattison is a private company that can choose to display whatever they want for whatever reason they want. But their mishandling of the Greenpeace billboard suggests that they’re willing to abandon one client in order to avoid a very minor inconvenience to another.
If Pattison wants to save face and show they aren’t bound by political pressure, they’ll put up the billboard and give Greenpeace their time in the sun.
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