Shell International, London, is running banners on potentially hostile Web sites to spur dialogue with activists who criticize its human rights and environmental practices.
Activist magazine Mother Jones has posted a page explaining its reasons for accepting the ad, as well as links to stories criticizing Shell. But a Shell spokesman said "it's important to try to reach those people who are 'educated skeptics'."
Aside from dialogue, Shell wants to "test response to issues and also response by geographic region," the spokesman said.
Shell said it was advised by Fishburn Hedges, Traffic Interactive and WPP Group's MindShare.
Banners also are running on sites operated by CNN, Environmental News Network, The Economist, Megastories.com, the New Zealand Herald, The Financial Times, Sydney Morning Herald and Environmental Data Exchange.
Shell's ads link to pages on its Web site, explaining its position on issues such as human rights and inviting e-mails.
UNUSUAL SEEN-THE-LIGHT TACTIC
Jay Harris, publisher of Mother Jones, said Shell's presence is unusual in an ad roster mainly of "companies that have positioned themselves as being socially responsible," such as the Body Shop, natural-food products, health supplements, books and music.
But he said the site could work for Shell. Although Mother Jones has done stories "quite critical of Shell," Mr. Harris said, the magazine's readership is educated, issue-oriented and influential, making the site a good place for Shell to defend its record.
"You can see by looking at [the banner] that Shell is positioning itself essentially as 'We've seen the light on human rights and the environment'," Mr. Harris said.
Copyright August 1999, Crain Communications Inc.