Chevron believes that last week's Twitter hijack against the brand from activist group Toxic Effect is actually part of a more elaborate plot involving the Republic of Ecuador, Adweek has learned.
On May 28, Toxic Effect—a self-proclaimed environmental group in Latin America—bought the Promoted Trend #AskChevron on Twitter to protest the oil company’s shareholder meeting. It spawned thousands of tweets that didn't bode well for the energy giant, including taunts that wrongly suggested Chevron was behind the ad buy. (See examples below.)
Chevron has cause to think that Toxic Effect’s Twitter effort is directly correlated to government-funded attempts from Ecuador against the oil company, said Morgan Crinklaw, spokesman for the energy giant.
"We view it as nothing more than inconsequential noise, and we know that it is not a result of any organic advocacy," he said. "This is all manufactured, it’s all paid for, and it’s all a stunt. So we are continuing to promote the positive impact that our company has on the places where we do business, and we are continuing to focus on exposing these groups for who they really are."
Adweek reached out to the Ecuadorian government about Chevron's claims but didn't receive a response.
The Promoted Trend promo typically costs $200,000 per day as a national U.S. buy. Since last week, Toxic Effect has continued to post on Twitter and Facebook using the #AskChevron hashtag. The group has some 11,000 Twitter followers and 215,000 Facebook fans.
While the promo blatantly name-dropped Chevron, Twitter confirmed that #AskChevron didn’t violate the social platform's ads policies.
The battle between Chevron and Ecuador stems back almost 20 years over alleged environmental pollution in the country. In March, a federal judge ruled in Chevron’s favor, citing fraud and corruption against the Ecuadorian government. Since then, Ecuador’s campaign against Chevron has escalated, per Chevron's Crinklaw.
Crinklaw also pointed to last week’s protest as a possible correlation between Toxic Effect and New York-based public relations firm McSquared. That company organized an offline protest in Midland, Texas, on the same day as the Twitter attack, according to a Bloomberg report.
And it’s not the first time the PR firm has reportedly worked against Chevron.
McSquared was linked to funding a trip last year to Ecuador for Richmond, Calif., mayor Gayle McLaughlin. Richmond is also home to a Chevron refinery, and McLaughlin has been critical of the oil company.
McSquared acknowledged that it has worked with Ecuadorian officials in the past, and a one-year contract with the nation's governor, Ricardo Patiño Aroca, ended on April 30. But it claims to have not played a role in the #AskChevron endeavor.
"We have no knowledge of who’s behind it," said Maria Garay, McSquared's creative strategist and communications rep.
— Céline Meneses (@CelineMeneses) May 28, 2014
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) May 28, 2014
— Donny Rico (@The_Donny_RICO) May 28, 2014