Worst oil company ad in history?

1947 Shell Research ad touts a tasty salad of rock and asphalt

The people who put this together truly were Mad Men:

This amazing piece of work was apparently in the December 22, 1947 issue of Life (click here).

As BoingBoing notes:  “For reasons I am at a loss to explain, someone at Shell Research once believed that their mission could be made attractive to the public if it was summarized in this advert featuring a slimy petroleum salad.”

The ad above strikes me as worse than, though not as ironic as, this one from 1962 toutsing oil’s ability to melt glaciers!)

oil melts glaciers

UPDATE:  Sierra Club claims this is the worst ad:

I’m gonna call it a tie.  Oil spills are bad  — but so is eating asphalt!

12 Responses to Worst oil company ad in history?

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Perhaps ‘irony’ isn’t quite strong enough a word. Certainly it ought, I think, be prefaced by some other descriptor, like ‘savage’ or ‘ghastly’. Of course, if you believe, as I sometimes feel tempted to do, that the headlong rush to destruction can only be explained if our rulers are really, as the rumours would have it, extra-terrestrial reptiles intent on heating the planet to their liking and our destruction, perhaps this was a knowing in joke. Perhaps, if you scan the glacier with a magnifying glass, you will be able to see some of those skulls or naked women that were allegedly inserted in ads, in a crude attempt at subliminal manipulation.

  2. homunq says:

    I can see a reptilian face at the lower left.

  3. Michael Tucker says:

    Both those ads are wonderful windows into how America once embraced oil companies and oil use. Just two years after the end of World War II we were back to making and buying cars; big, powerful, luxurious cars. This is when gas was very cheap, stations were all full service, and the attendants still wore uniforms. In 1947 no one hated the oil industry even though the air quality in Los Angeles was visibly impacted and the industry had suffered many oil blow-outs and spills.

    Just 37 years earlier perhaps the largest oil well blow-out in history occurred in California causing no negative reaction. About 9 million barrels of oil shot into the sky creating an oil river that lasted for one and a half years and no one cared. Oil was cheap, Kern county California was oil country, and environmental protection was not important to most.

    We have come a long way baby.

  4. Paul Rauber says:

    Joe: Nice try but Sierra magazine reprinted an even worse ad back in 1998:

    [JR: I’m gonna call it a tie. Sure, destroying the environment is bad — but eating asphalt?]

  5. Russell says:

    If environmentalists are serious about carbon sequestration, they should take advantage of obesity , and turn student waistlines into a CCS resource by joining the Fossil Food Movement

    To achieve carbon neutral education, we must make lignite a vegetable, like ketchup, and raise public awareness of the marvelously high fiber content of culinary coal.

  6. Brian Donahue says:

    Not exactly an oil company but hard to top this one:

    Nat’l Geographic early 1960s I believe.

  7. Richard L says:

    I agree all these are horrible.

    I am also dismayed every time I see Sherwin Williams “cover the world’ ad currently (2010) being used!

  8. Tina_Rinaldi says:

    These old ads speak volumes about how totally different the mindset was back then.

    Maybe some of the GW head-cases on this blog will look at them and actually get some insight – that they are themselves part of a contemporary ‘green’ mindset that is just as artificial and misguided.

    Nah. Much more fun to save the world and be an oracle of Truth and Righteousness – along with all the other zealots in history.

  9. Eldslukare says:


  10. alex says:

    it’s really awful