Big Oil has joined other brand marketers, ranging from Amazon to AT&T, in harnessing the marketing appeal of jobs amid stubborn 9-percent-plus American unemployment. Specifically, ConocoPhillips, with the third-largest oil and gas reserves of any U.S. energy company, has launched a new "public-service" campaign touting natural gas not only as the nation's abundant, clean energy resource — but as a jobs creator as well.
"We wanted to inject the ConocoPhillips voice into the conversation," Davy Kong, spokeswoman for the Houston-based company, told brandchannel. "As a company, we recognize that we need to do a better job of talking about the natural-gas industry and its benefits and explaining them to the public."
In this economic environment, little gets Americans' attention more quickly than talk of jobs. And no industry has a better jobs story to tell right now than natural-gas exploration and development, what with "fracking" technology newly unlocking vast shale-natural gas supplies from Pennsylvania to Texas.
So the jobs angle is important, for instance, in a new series of ConocoPhillips TV ads that are a big part of the campaign. In one spot, a bunch of college kids are holding an after-class conversation about natural gas. The energy source is great "if you just ignore the environment," complains one student to the others. But another argues, "Actually, it's cleaner." A third says that natural-gas development "provides jobs, and it helps our economy." And at the end of the spot in a sort of aside, he adds, because of an environmentally safe gas boom, "I might get a job once we graduate" — a special appeal to the Millennial generation whose immediate employment prospects seem especially bleak.
The campaign has multiple platforms, including a website. But one of its most interesting aspects is that it includes a high-octane personal push by top ConocoPhillips executives. CEO James Mulva is leading the charge, the latest in a growing group of corporate chieftains who are strongly injecting their views as business leaders into national discussions of economic policies and politics. He even wrote a piece for the op-ed pages of The Wall Street Journal in which he focused on the jobs benefits of America's natural-gas boom.
Natural gas "must be part of any discussion on strengthening our country's long-term economic health," he told the Detroit Economic Club in a September speech that kicked off the ConocoPhillips job-focused campaign. Gas resources "are generating new jobs, by the tens of thousands," Mulva continued. "We believe that as the U.S. enters the election campaign season, energy policy will be a key point of debate. Perhaps not because of energy prices, which are now moderate. Instead, hopefully, the debate will center on using energy development, particularly of natural gas, to drive job creation."
Mulva's appeal could prove more effective than the recent pleas of some other CEOs for American companies to turn on the jobs spigot, simply because his company, and his industry, is actually creating thousands of new jobs already. And even opponents of "drill baby drill" don't have much of an answer for that.