Looks like Picasso can paint a turd and make it look beautiful

Sample reactions to Dow’s “human element” campaign
While watching this 90″ spot, part of a new brand campaign from Dow Chemical created by FCB Chicago [actually Golin Harris], we are reminded of the unfortunate mindset that invades large companies which do so many things it becomes impossible even to remotely explain what the company actually does do. We saw this to a certain degree in the latest GE campaign and now we are witnessing it in this latest campaign from Dow Chemical. For an agonizing 89 seconds, we are subjected to meaningless fluffery and puffery, written as if the copywriter was in the midst of an epiphany with God, which somehow ties Dow to a missing chemical element, the Human Element. Then again, what else can you say about a company that does everything?
Adrants editorial, June 21, 2006
Looks like the CMO fell in love with an agency rip-o-matic.
Posted by: Nick on June 21, 2006 12:31 PM

This DOW spot is actually designed to highlight an industry-wide epidemic: horrifically poor copywriting in brand mgmt. campaigns.
Posted by: Corey King on June 21, 2006 01:20 PM
The dark irony of this campaign is that when methyl isocyanate bonded with the human element in Bhopal, India, Dow refused to accept responsibility for the more than 100,000 deaths that resulted.
Posted by: sam on June 21, 2006 01:31 PM
Of course, they also forgot to notice that there already is a 74th element on the periodic table. It was never missing. It’s tungsten.
Posted by: Kevin Glennon on June 21, 2006 01:41 PM
I like Nick’s take on this. Other then that what could the reason be. Poor is a good description.
Posted by: Roy on June 21, 2006 03:16 PM
Sam- The thing in Bhopal was under Union Carbide, Dow wasn’t associated. Dow acquired Union Carbide years later.
Posted by: Chris on June 21, 2006 03:56 PM
How does making old ladies get all teary eyed help you sell chemicals?
Posted by: Jessie Birks on June 21, 2006 05:26 PM
“We are being portrayed as a heartless giant which doesn’t care about the 20,000 lives lost due to Bhopal over the years,” said Dow President and CEO Michael D. Parker. “But this just isn’t true. Many individuals within Dow feel tremendous sorrow about the Bhopal disaster, and many individuals within Dow would like the corporation to admit its responsibility, so that the public can then decide on the best course of action, as is appropriate in any democracy. Unfortunately, we have responsibilities to our shareholders and our industry colleagues that make action on Bhopal impossible. And being clear about this has been a very big step. On December 3, 1984, Union Carbide–now part of Dow–accidentally killed 5,000 residents of Bhopal, India, when its pesticide plant sprung a leak. It abandoned the plant without cleaning it up, and since then, an estimated 15,000 more people have died from complications, most resulting from chemicals released into the groundwater. Although legal investigations have consistently pinpointed Union Carbide as culprit, both Union Carbide and Dow have had to publicly deny these findings. After the accident, Union Carbide compensated victims’ families between US$300 and US$500 per victim.
Posted by: sam on June 21, 2006 07:42 PM

I think neither the copywriter nor the brand manager actually know what the company does. They put the spot on some finantial channel while the tickers roll and investors say “Hey that company I bought some shares last week has a commercial on TV”. They don’t know what the company does either.
Posted by: Anonymous on June 22, 2006 11:13 AM
This is obviously a rip off from “Ashes and Snow” by Gregory Colbert! You can see similar (or almost copied) pictures in every scene!!
First, I thought that it had been created by Mr. Colbert. However there is no way that Colbert who is an Environment Supporter/Nature Photgrapher would do this job even they paid him a fortune. It is such a misleading commercial with no originality.
Posted by: kanna on June 24, 2006 08:50 PM
Have you seen the new ad by Dow Chemical called The Human Element? It is spectacular. See it here at YouTube. It is a visually beautiful, capitvating video. It looks like a video version of National Geographic magazine article. It injects humanity into the Periodic Table of Elements. It hits the right tone for placing humanity in the context of the natural world. There’s no rant, no spin, just the poetry of pictures, sounds and words that raise the possibility of human interaction with creation. Dow – a chemical company – is seeking to be a good corporate citizen by elevating their engagement with issues of global sustainability and the environment. Read about here, here and here. With this ad, they certainly have my attention. I look forward to more from them.
Anonymous, but sounds a lot like John Musser from Dow Chemical
Are you kidding? Please. Pretty? Yes. Expensive? For sure. Misleading? Probably. You can make anything smell like a rose, if you have a big enough budget and hire the right creative people. Obviously they hope people take this expensive ad at face value. I saw the 90 second version during Wimbledon coverage. (I always beware epic 60+ second advertisements, I love momentarily being in the dark as to what corporate behemoth it’s for) All of these beautiful images, an old wise African man sitting in a desert, the scruffy attractive artsy guy sculpting with clay, children running and playing in slow motion, beautiful sweeping landscapes. La-dee-da, the world is so nice and apparently so ecologically well taken care of. All set to a Ken Burns-esque fiddle music score. You don’t know what the advertisement is for until the very end when the Dow logo is stealthily revealed. It’s a stretch, to say the least. It’s not even a stretch, a stretch would imply it took a while but you’ve made a remote connection, I still haven’t made the connection yet. What do any of these images have to do with Dow? Other than trying to attach their own PR image to this beautiful cinematography. You can take those luscious images and attach them to ANYTHING. It’s all well and good to come off as being a responsible ‘generous to the community’ corporation. But man do they have the burden of proof. It’s probably not impossible. But it requires lots of thankless work and effort with no glory and no pat on the back perfectly timed with a photo op. At the very least, adapting the Japanese business model of CEOs’ salary being adapted to reflect how well the corporation performs, total disclosure to stockholders regarding the financial health and news of a corporation. I doubt Dow is up to the task, it’s not unusual, the bottom line implicitly means quite the opposite is actually going on. But maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt. Not. Wait, I think I made the connection. Maybe the ‘human element’ is a euphemism, meaning human beings are actually an ingredient in the chemicals. One part oxygen, two parts carbon, one part liquefied human being etc.
Posted by: Harry on July 19, 2006 11:46 AM
Looks like Picasso can paint a turd and make it look beautiful.
Posted by: Stephen Carmona on July 20, 2006 06:55 PM
They are doing what any smart company should do: Defining themselves or someone else will do it for them. Dow got rid of their branded products several years ago, a whole generation of people do not know who or what Dow is. Not defending them by any means. For the first time ever their stockholders have requested answers and action plans dealing with their enviromental issues, including Bhopal. I think it is largly because of the internet & discussions like this. Keep holding their feet to the fire!
Posted by: Lucy on August 28, 2006 11:03 PM
More comments from the marketing world
Absolutely fantastic! The HU is the underlying element of all life. I hear it in the sound of the wind in the pine trees. HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
Posted by: Terry Morse | July 6, 2006 06:51 AM
Here’s the ad video. Truly masterful! http://news.dow.com/dowtv/
Anonymous | July 7, 2006 07:42 AM
I am so impressed with the Dow commercial it actually captures the essence of the HU element in influencing the natural elements to meet the challenges of the future.
kricky | August 20, 2006 01:52 PM
Pretty pictures? Yes. Connection with who Dow is? No. Most people who will get this (ie have heard of Dow), know of Dow from financial markets or due to their misdeeds. If it is meant to convince the latter group that they have stopped poisoning people and are now doing good things for the world, it is a total flop. A sculptor at work versus silicone breast implants? Neurons firing versus child burned by napalm? Book pages turning versus 22,000 dead in Bhopal? (so they pick a South Asian child for the print ads) what grabs you more? What is most elemental, inspiring and beautiful is the organizing of those who survived Agent Orange, severe asthma and cancer, and are working together to regain thier right to a healthy environment, thier right to be born free of toxic chemicals. Thier basic elemental human rights. Check out www.thetruthaboutdow.org or www.studentsforbhopal.org for that beautiful story.
Posted by: AF | August 25, 2006 09:35 AM
Yeah the commercial was interesting, but what on earth does “7E+09” mean? Can anyone help answer that?
Posted by: Anonymous | August 25, 2006 05:26 PM
My request too. What is the meaning of the “7E+09” and also the “8” of the HU element? Maybe the population 7,000,003,157 and we are moving to 8 billion. But the census has World Population.
Posted by: Question | August 26, 2006 06:19 PM
You are right about the world population. I saw a graphic that described and when I find it I will post it. The music is New harmon Waltz by Susan Voelz, 13 Ribs CD
Posted by: Lucy | August 28, 2006 08:47 PM
Here is what the letters/numbers represent: Hu is the abbreviation for “Human” as an element. illustrating how people are the missing component on the Periodic Table of Elements. 7E+09 is the rounded up world population (7 billion) represented as an atomic weight. The number in the righthand corner is a random element number to enhance the Periodic Table appearance.
Posted by: Lucy | August 29, 2006 10:49 PM
I hate this ad so much I will make a effort not to purchase products from Dow. I hope no elementary school kids accidentally catch the ad and think that people are a component on the Periodic Table of Elements. …and that music is a rip off from the background music from a Motel 6, Tom Bonnett (sp?) ad. If Dow does so much for humans why not show us some of those products instead of this trash?
Posted by: Anonymous | September 4, 2006 09:44 AM
I love this commercial. I love the ‘human’ aspect and it’s composite portrayal; and I love the music; and no. . .not a ‘Motel 6 ad’ (!) but more in the genre of the both heart-breaking and soul-soothing Civil War era music as played in Ken Burns’ Civil War series. Or so it reminds me. All together, a great message.
Posted by: Cathy Toole | September 5, 2006 03:02 PM
It’s an interesting concept. I like the identification as Human as an element a great deal. However, I agree that there’s not much connection or association, so I’m not sure what they’re trying to convey. Does anyone know who the voiceover voice is?
Posted by: Mick | September 7, 2006 09:38 AM
It is disgusting how all of you have appreciated Dirty Dow’s lame attempt to cleanup their act. Dow’s Hu campaign, no matter how appealing, can never mask the stench and legacy of death and destruction that is Dow. And now in a latest attempt to fool the world under the Hu element Dirty Dow along with the UN wants to provide clean drinking water to the waterless around the world. well thats just so heart warming when the company is even not competent enough to provide clean water to the residents of Bhopal India. Dow would even sell the dynamite meant for blowing its facility if it could make a buck of it. And all of you are sick in your mind.
Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2006 12:10 AM
And more still
I despise this rotten commercial!
MrBelmontvedere (1 month ago)
FYI, dow has already posted this commercial on youtube, but they only allow glowing positive comments posted by dow employees. just another part of their campaign of deception to trick people into thinking they are honorable human beings. post your negative comments here
MrBelmontvedere (1 month ago)
wait….im feeling shallow again. lol! who is dow? whats all this about? and what the hell was that comercial in aid of? is to…make serial killers think again or…sumthing…hmm.
erm12345678910 (1 month ago)
Let me guess, you posted a general “corporations are evil!” rant on Dow’s post and it got deleted…I, for one, love the commercial. It’s got beautiful music, nice video, and a message that alot of people could stand to be reminded of.
wanderingabout (1 month ago)
I have no idea what DOW is about. But this commercial is great. It’s very beautiful and artistic. I have no idea what it is advertising though. Say what you the company, this is a really good ad. I don’t like Unilever and I really don’t like their false little “campaign,” but I’m still impressed by the Campaign for Real Beauty ads.
invinsoshin (1 month ago)
Wow… Dow is anything far from evil. Before you say anything, why don’t you check the products you use every day because there’s a 100% most of them were made using Dow products. Dow btw started with saran wrap and now makes thousands of products that are used everyday by almost everyone.
RushGoParty (3 weeks ago)
Regardless of the company’s terrible past, it’s still an amazing metaphor for chemistry.
jc215flip (2 weeks ago)
It is a great metaphor for how all of life works, I personally like dow as a company better than most, there are ones with worse records….check the facts
jpconkin (1 week ago)
However beautiful this commercial may be, it is a mask that hides the ugliness of deformed children and blighted lives. It was designed to deflect from Dow’s bitter history of causing death and pain, and to fill the mind with gently purifying thoughts. This is what makes it so utterly horrifying.
dowinsider (2 days ago)

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