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Oil Giants Make a Play for Millennial Hires

“This ain’t your daddy’s oil,” the commercial proclaims, cutting to shots of spray paint being made and a wall covered in fanciful graffiti. “Oil strikes a pose. Oil taps potential. Oil pumps life.”

Oil, in short, is cool, the industry’s branding braintrust has declared. The 30-second spot rolled out this year is part of a broader American Petroleum Institute campaign to “raise awareness about the role natural gas and oil has in economic growth, job creation, environmental stewardship, and national security.” Dubbed Power Past Impossible, the ads by the lobbying arm of America’s oil giants are all about millennials, the generation of roughly 21 to 35 year olds which out-sizes any other and makes up the largest chunk of the American workforce.

“It’s a shift in our messaging and our target that’s been in the works for several years,” says Marty Durbin, the institute’s chief strategy officer. “There isn’t a company out there that isn’t chasing the elusive millennials.”

That may be true, but there are few with the kind of uphill battle the oil industry faces in catching them. Millennials often frown on companies whose main products play a key role in global warming. A 2016 poll by the University of Texas found that 91 percent of those under the age of 35 said climate change is occurring and just over half supported a carbon tax. About two thirds of millennial-aged voters said energy issues influenced how they vote and that they plan to by an alternative fuel vehicle.

The spray paint ad, it turns out, got a decidedly mixed a reaction.

“What exactly were you guys thinking making a commercial aimed at young people,”

one viewer. “Every time I see it I’m reminded of how [expletive] of a resource petroleum is ecologically and how dumb it was to advertise ... that way.”

Millennials prefer brands that come across as “conscious capitalists,” explained Jeff Fromm, an expert in marketing to younger Americans. “Any mature industry has to think about the...


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