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Social Media Influencers Backlash Over Oil Firms Promotions

Published September 21, 2023
8 months ago

Top oil firms, including BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, and TotalEnergies, have resorted to influencer marketing to promote their brands among younger demographics. These young influencers, known best for sharing their lives, video games, pets, and holidays with millions of followers, are now promoting gasoline stations and related rewards. Countries such as India, Mexico, South Africa, and the United States have seen such commercial activity on platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Twitch.

Critics argue this maneuver is a strategic effort by fossil fuel companies to remain relevant and appealing to young people amidst the growing appeal of clean energy and a sense of urgency to curb climate change. Melissa Aronczyk, from Rutgers University, noted that many youths are well aware of climate change exigencies and are likely to distrust fossil fuel companies.

The use of influencers to promote fossil fuels has drawn criticism. One influencer, known for gaming, found herself in hot water after championing a Shell-sponsored feature in the video game Fortnite to her 178,000 followers.

Spokespersons from ExxonMobil and Shell acknowledged their influencer marketing strategies but refrained from discussing the intricacies thereof. Influencer marketing in the fossil fuel sector has been further criticized as ethically suspect because it encourages the use of products that actively cause harm to people and the planet.

Despite the backlash, however, these campaigns could backfire. Duncan Meisel, of Clean Creatives, suggested that influencers collaborating with fossil fuel companies could have a negative impact on their reputation because of the industry's adverse environmental implications.

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