Helen Clark

Chevron Corp.

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At the recent AdTech conference in San Francisco, teens speaking out in a keynote roundtable were asked what companies they considered to be environmentally friendly. The answer from one, which took some marketers in the audience by surprise, was none other than oil giant Chevron.

It was just a small mention, but it appears to underscore the success Helen Clark, corporate marketing manager for Chevron Corp., has had with the "Power of Human Energy" campaign she launched last year.

Like all oil companies, Chevron has to deal with high gas prices, high profits and environmental issues threatening its brand image. But after focus groups, Ms. Clark realized Chevron's opportunity was in educating consumers about global oil markets. That's also the company's biggest challenge.

As Ms. Clark sees it, 10% of the population is strongly against oil companies and 10% strongly in favor. "It's the middle 80% we target," she says.

Instead of sugarcoating the problem, Ms. Clark, 45, directed the production of a marketing package that discussed energy issues straightforwardly. The "Human Energy" campaign showed dirty smoke pouring from energy-producing facilities during a discussion of the world's energy needs. McGarryBowen, New York, created TV spots for the campaign.

Chevron also developed an online game called "Energyville" in which players try to balance energy needs with environmental costs. More than 500,000 played in the game's first four months. So far, the effort has received little negative feedback. In fact, it won a silver Effie for effectiveness. IAG Research named an ad from the campaign No. 9 among most-liked new TV spots for Sept. 24 to Oct. 12, 2007, a first for an oil company.

Next, watch for a campaign in which an oil company actually calls for conservation. "Our chairman feels very strongly we should become a nation of energy savers, and for every bit of energy we save, it's like finding new energy," Ms. Clark says.

Such campaigns of tough love come from a woman who's not unfamiliar with sweetness. Gordon Bowen, chief creative officer at McGarryBowen, calls Ms. Clark a smart, demanding client but one with "no attitude." On one shoot at the crack of dawn, when a private car had been available for a more reasonable arrival, she showed up with the crew, getting drenched in the rain, asking what she could do and pitching in to carry things like everyone else. "It earns a great deal of respect," he says.

The Manchester, England-born Ms. Clark started her career as a product manager for retailer Asda and later helped develop confectionery brands, such as an award-winning holiday chocolate with liqueur.
Previous: Annette Stover
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