When a chain of gas stations proclaims its devotion to the environment, do you think to yourself (a) "Gee, how nice of them," or (b) "Give me a break"?
Operating on the sensible hunch that people are usually more apt to pick (b) than (a), new commercials for Cenex (via Colle+McVoy of Minneapolis) give the brand's eco-friendly message a disarmingly goofy twist. The company, which operates some 1,600 gas stations and convenience stores around the
Midwest, presents us with a character who proudly identifies himself as
"Cenex Guy." Literally standing on a pedestal (which, helpfully, bears the
"Cenex Guy" name), he adopts the hands-on-hips posture and stilted speaking style of a cartoon superhero. In the spot shown here, he appears atop the van in which a low-rent rock band is traveling. What's he doing up there?
"Actually, I represent Cenex's 30-year dedication to providing renewable energy options." This launches Cenex Guy and the band members into a mini-debate about whether Guy is green or red (the latter being Cenex's trade-dress color). The deep thinker among the band members concludes that Cenex Guy is "a symbol, like the caged phoenix in our song"-a point he illustrates by gesturing toward the lurid painting of such a bird on the side of the van. This vignette will not persuade everyone that Cenex is a paragon of environmental sensitivity. But it puts the eco-friendly claim on record without prompting viewers to regard Cenex as an exemplar of earth-wrecking hypocrisy-which is more than you can say for most such advertising by companies that sell petroleum products.--Mark Dolliver