Prime Minister Harper stars in winning entry in Greenpeace CAPP ad jamming contest

Feature story - May 25, 2011
Greenpeace has unveiled the winning entry in its Put a CAPP on Tar Sands Greenwashing contest to culture jam pro-tar sands ads by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

Posters of the winning ad, designed by Bryn MacDonald of Alberta, have been plastered around Ottawa. The ad features a smiling Prime Minister Stephen Harper holding a kitten with a devastated tar sands landscape behind him. The copy reads: “Don’t look at the destruction behind me, look at this cute little kitten! Isn’t he just so adorable? I just want to squeeze him and squeeze him. Tar Sands are great, just like kittens!”


"The winning ad uses humour, sarcasm and a very familiar face to deliver a serious political punch and show that people aren’t going to take CAPP's tar sands greenwashing lying down,” said Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema. “The tar sands aren't like yogurt or peanut butter, as CAPP claims; they are toxic. The message for the tar sands industry and the Harper government is the tar sands are contaminating our air and river systems, poisoning downstream communities and releasing greenhouse gases that are pushing the global climate further down the path of runaway climate change.”

Greenpeace’s ad jam contest responded to a national ad campaign by CAPP, with glossy magazine ads, billboards, transit ads and TV commercials, to rebrand the tar sands as green. Greenwashing ads featured oil industry employees making claims about their role in ensuring the sustainability of the tar sands. Greenpeace and other environmental and social groups immediately criticized the ads as misleading. Greenpeace encouraged contestants to post funny, edgy mash-ups of the ads on a Facebook page and on Twitter.

“CAPP needs to realize that the tar sands don't have a public relations problem, they have an environmental-impacts problem that's not going to be solved by glossy ads or glitzy TV commercials,” said Hudema. “It's time tar sands companies and the Harper government stop denying the horrifying effects the tar sands are causing and start addressing them."

Designer Bryn Macdonald is a former chemical engineer who consulted on oil projects around the world, including in the Alberta tar sands. He is also served eight years in the Canadian Armed Forces and served on a UN peacekeeping tour in Nicosia, Cyprus.  In 2008, he made big changes in his life. He left the oil industry, traded his car for a bicycle, became a vegetarian and committed himself to working actively at solving environmental problems rather than increasing them. He made Alberta his home in 1990 and he now lives in Edmonton where he is a single parent raising his three-year-old daughter. 

Ads by the runners-up are available at

More on the Greenpeace tar sands campaign