On today’s Bad Marketing, we are looking at the new commercial for Total, a French multinational, which is one of the six major players in the oil industry. They have been on the news lately due to the recent passing of their CEO, Christophe de Margerie in a plane crash at the Vnukovo Airport of Moscow in Russia. They only have 415 gas pumps in North America, but have almost 15.000 employees working in the oil, gas, solar and petrochemical industries.
On a more positive subject, Total is currently using the “Committed to better energy” campaign with its hashtag #MakeThingsBetter.Total and Publicis Agency have partnered together since their 2013 deal. According to its site, Total has launched this campaign in more than 20 different countries to improve awareness and growth objectives.
You know what also happened this last decade in more than 20 different countries? 59 oil spills. That said, Total has a lot to do to be seen as a positive company. As the oil industry isn’t the most transparent, they still have to respect legislation of each country they are working in. But as different countries means different laws, most of the time the whole oil lobby industry works in the shadows of government to make sure that different laws aren’t going in opposite directions.
With improvements in technology, more information on a geological scale has been obtained and also helped engineers to build stronger and more flexible materials in the construction of their refineries and pipeline. It helps engineers immensely, allowing them to make the best and cleanest industry as possible. Unfortunately for them, they still live in an unappreciated industry.
I’ll be honest, Total and friends aren’t my favourite companies on earth. Oil is unfortunately quite essential to most people everyday. Our population is growing, and thus our needs expand accordingly. Changes aren’t coming fast enough, and the fast-paced growth of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are making things harder as they represent almost 3 billions people. But to multinationals, a growing population means more customers and more demand.
To make an impression, Total has decided to show us that they care as much as we do, or at least as we all should, by releasing a new commercial to promote their services and seriousness. Since many people have concerns about Total’s activities, they decided to show different places of work across the globe to demonstrate how things work in this industry.
The first thing you’ll notice is the music. Total have used the song “Roadgame” from the French artist Kavinsky to amplify the motif of young and active people in the commercial. With electronic music ensuring a fast-paced commercial, different people are telling, looking straight at the camera, that it is “not a question of place” nor “of temperature” nor “of dedication” because “it’s not a question at all”. “Energy has to be better” because “it is our responsibility” and “our commitment” “to make it better” “for all of us”. By saying this in that way, Total is hoping to unite us, while making us emotionally connected to the company. They display different people with different origins at different locations which amplifies the statement “for all of us”.
It appears that they wanted to use Total employees to be brand ambassadors to make the multinational closer to every employees on Earth. The things is, it sounds fake.
In my opinion, they forget one crucial thing: most people are not big fans of the oil industry, and having some statement that they are doing a good job because of their commitment to #MakeThingsBetter doesn’t feel natural. To me, this commercial raises more questions than ever. How are Total making it better? What does total define as your responsibilities? Is Total truly improving our lives?
I get that using “employees” from all around the world might sounds like a good idea to show that the whole group is working together on this goal, but it feels unnatural. To be clear, I feel it is more like a propaganda film that you want to show at a presentation to recruit people. And I am sorry, but making a statement isn’t enough. I truly believe that we are more aware of what surrounds us, so no matter how committed the people in the commercial are to their jobs, I don’t buy that they are making something better.
I understand that Total needs to do some public relation from time to time to show their goodwill, but not like that. No matter what they say, they are working in a high profit and dark industry. Despite what they are saying on their social media with the hashtag #MakeThingsBetter, they aren’t truly delivering the truth. They need to be more inspired than that. A statement isn’t enough, and Total did it better before including with this one:
In short, Total is a major player in a industry that makes billions every year. In 2012, Total netted $13.35 billion, which represent a $36.5 million profit every single day. That same year, they have been fined for the oil spill of the Erika Tanker which sank near the Breton coast in France to $213 millions. In 6 days, they got their money back. That said, to make us believe in their commitment, we need more than statements like that. They have to show what they are actually doing, what they are bringing to the world, and what exactly they are improving. Otherwise, Total just reeks of disingenuous propaganda like in this ad.