When I saw this ad, I was transfixed. Can you guess what it’s for?

Please watch the ad before continuing, eh? Spoilers below.

During the first 30 seconds of watching this ad, I have to admit, I was intrigued. The dialogue sounded like something I myself might write – some sort of ecogeek manifesto:

“For each of us there is a moment of discovery. We turn a page. We raise a hand. And just then, in the flash of a synapse, we learn that life is elemental – and this knowledge changes everything. We look around and see the grandness of the scheme. Sodium bonding with chlorine. Carbon bonding with oxygen. Hydrogen bonding with oxygen. We see all things connected. We see life unfold.”

What could this ad be for, I asked myself? I wanted to say “awesome new BBC documentary series!”, but I held back. I was suspicious.

And rightly so, it turns out. As soon as I heard the next few lines of narration:

“And in the dazzling brilliance of this knowledge, we may overlook the element not listed on the chart. It’s importance so obvious, it’s presence is simply understood. The missing element is the human element.”

I knew for certain the ad was for an organization that was most certainly not too concerned about “the grandness of the scheme.” The creator is none other than Dow – you can see their whole campaign here.

Yes, I know, modern chemistry has changed our lives, all our fabulous new gadgets (like the laptop I’m typing this on) have made our lives better, blah blah blah, bling bling bling, blah.

But you know what? As chemical companies go, Dow has a pretty horrific record (as does any big company that feels the need to make lush, seductive, misleadingly green ads like these).

They are one of the biggest makers of silicone implants – and launched a nauseatingly cynical PR campaign to dispute evidence that silicone implants are (duh) bad for you.

They supplied napalm and Agent Orange to the US military for use in Vietnam – which not only killed millions during the war but also resulted in untold numbers of horrific birth defects since.

And they are the proud owners of Union Carbide, the company responsible for the chemical leak at Bhopal, often called the worst industrial accident in history. Although they did not own Union Carbide at the time of the disaster, they have resisted every attempt to get them to properly clean up the area and compensate the victims.

Check out the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal for more. And, for a good chuckle, check out this supremely awesome hoax: a member of the activist prankster group The Yes Men posed as a Dow representative on the BBC, apologizing for Bhopal, and announcing $12 billion in compensation for the victims. As you might expect, after the announcement that the company had finally found its conscience, Dow’s stock fell by 3 per cent. Here’s a great clip from Channel 4 that sums up the whole fiasco.

So Dow has good reason to spend their dough on some slick ads to buff up their image (I’ve heard that this “human element” campaign cost something like $30 million).

Well, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here’s a fantastic spoof of Dow’s ad with different pictures, over the same audio track, to prove that point:

Now that is a human message. Check out their website, www.thetruthaboutdow.org.