International agency Havas has just secured one of the most divisive contracts of the year: Shell’s strategic media buying account.
The acquisition of the account follows a three-month review and a series of protests by activist groups, including Extinction Rebellion and Clean Creatives. These groups have been vocal in their opposition to advertising agencies working with fossil fuel companies.
WPP-owned GroupM previously managed the account for 18 years. Havas’ announcement coincides with Clean Creatives' release of the F-list, a report that names advertising agencies involved with fossil fuel companies.
Clean Creatives executive director Duncan Meisel has made his stance clear. According to him, Havas has now become a "vital part of Shell’s plans to accelerate the climate emergency."
In response, Havas stated, "We are invested in supporting companies through their growth and transformation journeys," emphasizing their intent to help Shell communicate its range of energy solutions to consumers.
Shell has recently faced criticism for allegedly hindering global net-zero targets through greenwashing and exaggerated carbon offsetting claims. A majority of its shareholders also voted against aligning the company's ESG goals with the Paris Climate Agreement.
All of this unfolds as Shell reports record profits for 2022, amounting to $39.9 billion.
The Havas-Shell partnership is emblematic of the ongoing tension between business interests and the urgent need for climate action. The deal exposes both companies to public scrutiny and raises the question: At what cost does this partnership come in terms of climate and social responsibility?