Mobil1’s ‘Breaking Free’ Campaign Is Picking a Fight With EVs

Mobil1’s ‘Breaking Free’ Campaign Is Picking a Fight With EVs

Last week, international petrol company Mobil1 debuted its new ad, with the specific intention of making combustion-engine cars look better than evil, power cord-encumbered EVs. The ad is …look, it’s extremely difficult to take seriously. And I have some thoughts, so many of them, actually.

Here’s the ad – ‘Breaking Free – A Mobil1 Film’.

End the weekend, anyone?

Investigative journalist Amy Westervelt posted the ad on Twitter, which is how I came across it. “Big oil is turning on its old friend big auto,” she wrote.

In her article, Westervelt said that the ad had only run on the U.S. History Channel so far, though as Mobil1 is an international brand, we may see it go worldwide – and we should begin to expect stuff like this as EV uptake increases.

The ad is attempting to stomp on electric vehicles and their requirements for charging, indicating that customers can ‘break free’ from the cables by switching to an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle. It prays on the insecurities that drivers have around electric vehicles; worries that they have around charging time and range.

‘Breaking Free’ is part of a larger campaign that Mobil1 has launched to bump up petrol vehicles, and it’s partnered with a similarly named webpage: ‘Love of Driving’.

“‘Breaking Free’ is not just a campaign; it represents a philosophy rooted in freedom, appreciation of the journey, and the transformative power of the open road to make your worries melt away,” the company wrote in a press release.

“And it’s a shared philosophy; over half of Americans identify that some of life’s most cherished moments happen in the car – from the excitement of getting your driver’s license, family road trips, to singing to music as the miles pass by.”

‘Melt away’ seems a bit on the nose, but I guess saying a breath of fresh air would be a bit much too. Worth noting, a similar ad Nissan released to advertise the Leaf played with these ideas much better.

Mobil1 added that the campaign will run across television, print, digital, video, and ‘out-of-home executions’. The intention: “a multi-year brand platform that broadens the appeal of the category and opens the door for more people to find their joy in driving – spotlighting human stories instead of technical specifications.”

“…spotlighting human stories instead of technical specifications”. Gee. Yes, electric vehicle buyers tend to care deeply about two key technical specs – range and charging speed – which have both been improving considerably over the past five years, though admittedly aren’t at parity with petrol vehicles (yet). But also, petrol cars don’t have any technical specs??? They totally don’t have greater maintenance requirements, either.

Shocking nobody, there’s no mention in the ad of the impact petrol vehicles have on the environment, either (not that EVs are perfect, but they are much better). Just the joy of driving.

Not to say that EVs are faultless, mind you – they’re still fairly expensive, and unless our power grids rely on renewable energy sources, we’re still just using fossil fuels, really.

Coming back to Westervelt, she’s coined the term ‘petroganda’ to describe these ads and messages from the petrol industry. She’s cataloguing examples of this from between the 1800s to the modern day on an Instagram account, and the ad from Mobil1 is only the latest example, but the first in a while that depicts electric vehicles as a direct threat to the petrol industry.

And, really, this isn’t that surprising. Mobil1 is a petrol company – the transition to EVs is a direct threat to its primary business, and if there were a shift too fast and too strong away from petrol-engine vehicles, Mobil1 would feel it considerably.

Meanwhile, Mobil1’s parent company is playing on all fronts. In May, ExxonMobil dipped its toe into lithium mining by buying the right to drill for lithium in Arkansas. Over the weekend, the parent company also announced an acquisition of carbon capture company Denbury.

It’s odd seeing a petrol company kicking and screaming over EVs, but I’m sure it’s not the end of it.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.