Disturbing the Greenpeace

Spurned by Pattison Outdoor, Greenpeace reveals the companies that have stepped up to carry the anti-pipeline message at a reduced rate.

Pattison Outdoor refused to put up this Greenpeace billboard earlier this week.

Spurned by Pattison Outdoor, Greenpeace talks with Marketing and reveals the companies that have stepped up to carry the anti-pipeline message at a reduced rate.

Greenpeace Canada has found out there’s no use crying over spilled oil.

The environmental organization claims it has been shut out by out-of-home advertising giant Pattison Outdoor Canada in its attempt to draw attention to the problem of oil spills and urge the Alberta government to establish an independent body to examine pipeline safety.

Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace in Edmonton, said the environmental organization booked a strategically located 10 x 20 billboard with Pattison last Tuesday and submitted its ad to the out-of-home company for approval on Wednesday. On Friday, the organization received what Hudema characterized as a “very short reply” informing it that the ad was not approved.

Since then, said Hudema, Greenpeace has been e-mailing and phoning Pattison to try to find out why the ad was not approved and indicating it was willing to make any necessary changes to the copy. It has received “absolutely no reply,” he said.

“We’re left shaking our head trying to figure out why,” Hudema said, noting the wording of the Greenpeace board is identical to that of a billboard purchased by the U.S. environmental organization Vote Solar in 2010 (Greenpeace got approval from Vote Solar to use the wording, said Hudema).

Vote Solar employed the strategy that Greenpeace hoped to use, posting its billboard on a major highway in Albany, NY that it called the “driveway” to the capitol building. “We had a quite positive reaction from the billboard company,” said Vote Solar’s executive director Adam Browning in an e-mail interview, noting that the organization was also encouraged by the media company to run ads in Times Square. “The idea that an advertising company would censor a pro-solar message is mindboggling.”

Hudema said that the wording of the ad doesn’t appear to contravene any of Pattison’s advertising guidelines. “The text itself is in my opinion very gentle–it doesn’t target [Alberta Premier] Alison Redford herself… it doesn’t do any of the things which would be potential grounds for having an ad looked at more carefully,” said Hudema.

“It’s a very tongue-in-cheek slogan that doesn’t target anybody directly, it simply promotes green energy and solar power and says that we want less oil spills, which I think is a message everybody agrees with,” he added. “We’re completely perplexed.”

Greenpeace has run ads with Pattison in the past, including a 2009 campaign stressing the need to protect cod fisheries. Hudema theorizes that Pattison is reluctant to raise the ire of organizations such as energy company Enbridge and organizations such as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which he said has “hundreds” of billboards promoting the tar sands industry.

“We think at the end of the day Pattison did not want to potentially upset those oil and gas companies or the Premier herself, and that is not right,” said Hudema.

Pattison Outdoor president Randy Otto did not respond to interview requests from Marketing by press time, while the company’s vice-president of marketing, Joe Donaldson, told The Globe and Mail earlier this week that the company does not comment on the reasons behind such decisions.

Hudema says Greenpeace has subsequently been approached by online news resource the Edmonton Beacon and a company called Global Resource Efficiency Services (GRES) about advertising with their organizations.

The latter company, which specializes in making institutional buildings more energy efficient, has offered Greenpeace what it calls an “anchor ad” on a 10-foot by 6-foot solar-powered LED billboard it owns at 50% off the rate card price of $2,500 per month.

“I don’t like the oppression that’s going on here, so that’s why I said we’d help,” GRES general manager Brian Staszenski told Marketing on Wednesday. “They’re going to spend $2,800 for one week on a static Pattison billboard, [for the same price] they’re going to get two months on our sign – that’s 85,000 ads.”

Staszenski called Pattison “chickens” for declining the ad.

“This is Oil-berta and there’s a lot of heavy-handedness going on here,” he said. “That’s how it’s been here for 30 years. Once you start gagging and not allowing people to have their say, you’re undermining democracy, and that’s what’s happening in this country.

“I’m not afraid to have Greenpeace advertise; I’m honoured.”

Hudema said he hasn’t accepted GRES’s offer, mostly because the Pattison billboard he wanted was ideally located near the provincial legislature. “We’re still trying to get a reason from Pattison because we want a billboard in that location,” he said. “The message was for the Premier of Alberta because of the number of oil spills we’ve had.”

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