Note to Oil Lobbyists: Photoshopping Minorities into Stock Ads Does Not Help Your Cause

Last Updated Dec 16, 2009 2:45 PM EST

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, what does an image photoshopped to include minorities say about the oil lobby group that used it?

The folks over at Astrotruth.org pointed out last week a sloppily photoshopped image included in a recently released American Petroleum Institute pamphlet. The oil lobby group used an iStockPhoto image and photoshopped two minorities into picture in what I can only assume as an attempt to provide a more ethnically diverse pro-oil and gas front. (ThinkProgress notes the minorities in this photo)

At the time, I gave the report little consideration. Just another funny example of an industry group or company misusing photoshop. API is certainly not alone. The coal industry has suffered from the same problem. It's "FACES of Coal" campaign used stock images purchased from iStockphoto.com, the Appalachian Voices' Front Porch blog posted in August. BNET Advertising blogger Jim Edwards has had some fun writing about Ralph Lauren's heavy-handed photoshopping in some of its print ads.

But I kept coming back to the timing and purpose of the pamphlet. The whole point of the pamphlet is to describe through pictures and words the affect that proposed climate-change legislation will have on "everyday people." Meaning, jobs.

The energy industry -- that's fossil fuels and renewables -- has a lot at stake these days. The outcome of global climate talks in Copenhagen as well as legislation here in the U.S. will greatly shape what happens to the industry in the coming years. So, every message counts. And the poorly executed ones, not only shift the conversation away from the important stuff, it tends to breed mistrust.

One final note (which has since been clarified): The original image is far from a perfect choice, anyway. The two inserted minorities replaced images of the same white guy. Another white guy in the photo also appears in the image twice. Even without the doctoring, I suspect the use of it in this particular API pamphlet would have raised an eyebrow or two.
  • Kirsten Korosec

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