Is This the Worst Oil Advertisement Ever?

old mobil oil ad photo
Image via The Sierra Club

Throughout the Gulf oil spill, BP pulled out all the stops to try and save their image -- with a slurry of off-the-mark television advertisements airing across the United States. Still, their pricey PR campaign couldn't come close to the impact felt after seeing the images of devastation and suffering along the Gulf coast. But there was once a time, not so long ago, when the petroleum industry wasn't trying to hide what they were about in their advertising -- which led to some of the worst oil ads in history.While it's not the first time such jarringly out of touch old ads have popped up, the folks over at Climate Progress have revived the debate over which is the worst oil advertisement in history. Their selection was this "Shell Research" ad from 1947 comparing a goopy bowl of oil to a delicious, healthy salad. Yum?

oil salad photo

Another contender for worst ad in history was dug up by Grist. This ad for the oil company Humble, which later fused with Exxon, is from a 1962 issue of Life Magazine. The text from the ad reads the following:

This giant glacier has remained unmelted for centuries. Yet, the petroleum energy Hunble supplies--if converted into heat--could melt it at the rate of 80 tons each second!

oil glacier ad

Unfortunately for the world's glaciers, which are melting at record rates due to global warming, such advertising slogans turned out to actually be quite prophetic.

Finally, the Sierra Club decided to weigh in on the debate, presenting their selection for history's worst oil ad -- in this case, a vintage ad for Mobiloil. Although the other advertisements are clearly a departure from the petroleum companies' ads nowadays, this particular piece is easily the most rediculous. It's a mystery how this full-page ad showing oil being poured into a snow-lined stream was ever deemed appropriate.

These old advertisements, as ironic and out of touch as they may seem today, not only reflect the attitudes of oil companies at the time, but also the sensibilities of the American consumer. But as pollution from gas-guzzling cars continues to dirty the air, and the environmental impacts of oil-drilling accidents continue to be felt along the coast, one can only wonder how far we've really come.

More on Strange Advertising
What Would The Humble Oil Ad Look Like Today?
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