Alberta Politics
The Alberta Energy War Room’s headquarters in Calgary may not appear exactly as illustrated (Photo of Bamburgh Beach, Northumbria: Mark Percy, Creative Commons).

Annals of the Energy War Room: Square-pipeline logo to be dumped like a bad first date

Posted on December 20, 2019, 1:47 am
7 mins

The Alberta Energy War Room’s logo will be unceremoniously dumped like a bad first date.

It turns out the iconic square-pipeline symbol that was supposedly rustled up just for Canadian Energy Centre Ltd., as the War Room is officially known, was already in service as the corporate logo of a multi-national business software development company based in Massachusetts.

Canadian Energy Centre Ltd. CEO and Managing Director Tom Olsen (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Needless to say, this was an embarrassing coincidence to have someone discover after only a week of operations by Premier Jason Kenney’s $30-million-per-annum Uncrown corporation, established by the United Conservative Party Government to straighten out those misguided folks who won’t adhere to the party line on why Alberta’s fossil fuel industry is actually good for the planet.

This is not the way these sorts of propaganda efforts are supposed to work. The idea is for the general themes of the stories, interviews, memes and videos they pump out to become the prevailing narrative about the industry CECL was set up to support. The idea is not for the War Room itself to be the story.

Once upon a time, plagiarism and other forms of creative coincidence, accidental and intentional, were easy to get away with because detecting them was hard.

War Room spokesperson Grady Semmens (Photo: LinkedIn).

But we live in an age of sophisticated online search engines that include, importantly, image recognition applications. So it didn’t take long for some bright spark to notice that the War Room’s logo and the one in use by Progress Software Corp. of Bedford, Mass., were for all intents and purposes identical but for colour. Naturally, this observation was soon zipping around social media at warp speed, accompanied by some pretty unkind commentary.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to write War Room spokesperson Grady Semmens in the wake of the social media revelations to ask for an explanation about how this came to happen, how much the logo cost, and whether or not it would continue to be used.

I received the following email containing answers to some of my questions, which seems to be the same one Mr. Semmens sent to everyone else yesterday morning:

“The Canadian Energy Centre is taking steps to replace its company logo after learning that the icon in the logo is being used by another company,” he emailed.

Massachusetts-based Progress Software Corp.’s corporate logo (Image: Progress Software Corp.).

“The icon was produced for the CEC by marketing agency Lead & Anchor. The CEC is working with the agency to determine how this situation occurred.” (Last night, readers will be interested to learn, Lead & Anchor’s website said only that it is a private site, offering only a link to a discreet sign-in page.)

Mr. Semmens’ email continued: “‘This is an unfortunate situation but we are committed to making the necessary corrections to our visual identity,’ said Tom Olsen, the CEC’s chief executive officer and managing director. ‘We understand this was a mistake and we are in discussions with our agency to determine how it happened.’”

“The icon has been in use since the CEC’s public launch on Dec. 11, 2019,” the email continued. “Any costs associated with removal and adjustment of the design will be borne by the agency.”

“Lead & Anchor was chosen from nine respondents to a post on Communo, a Calgary-based company that operates a network of vetted marketing and communications agencies,” Mr. Semmens said before signing off. “The CEC has already begun work to update its visual identity and a new logo is forthcoming.”

The Alberta Energy War Room’s corporate logo, at least until yesterday (Image: Canadian Energy Centre Ltd.).

The logo remained on the CECL website last night. Still, the pledge to remove it suggests Mr. Olsen can in fact learn from his mistakes.

Alert readers will recall that back in the day, when he was communications advisor to Progressive Conservative Premier Ed Stelmach during one of the province’s occasional rebranding efforts, a photo of a beach in Northumbria, England, appeared over an advertising tagline that read, “Alberta: Freedom to Create. Spirit to Achieve.”

No big deal. Stuff like this happens in the advertising industry all of the time.

Hilarity ensued, however, when Mr. Olsen insisted to an Edmonton newspaper that “there’s no attempt to make people think that this is Alberta, there’s no attempt to mislead. That picture just fit the mood and tone of what we were trying to do.”

Yesterday’s reaction was infinitely better, don’t you think, than pretending not to have made an obvious boo-boo? Still, it may not be completely reassuring that a public agency supposedly dedicated to fact checking and disputing criticism of the fossil fuel industry seems to lack the wherewithal to do a simple online image check.

I am sure we are all looking forward to the appropriately named Lead & Anchor’s next stab at iconography. Just a suggestion: make the pipeline round … you know, like a pipe.

20 Comments to: Annals of the Energy War Room: Square-pipeline logo to be dumped like a bad first date

  1. Dave

    December 20th, 2019

    Credibility is important when you are trying to persuade others. I’m not quite sure whether the so called war room is trying to persuade those outside of Alberta or to persuade Albertans that our tough talking Premier is trying to do something effective – lets call it the appearance of action. In any event, being mocked on social media for logo plagarism sure isn’t helping build credibility or helping create the impression of doing something effective.

    However, whether conceived in Mr. Kenney’s own imagination or by someone else in the UCP, it has been a bit of a problem child from the start, hasn’t it? Let’s start with the antagonistic name, the “war room” that immediately raised hackles of those Albertans who think our government may be fighting against them using our own tax dollars. So it is not surprising it has become the target of some derision and its every move is examined closely, particularly from those who think its real war is actually against the truth.

    Then there is that awkward pseudo-separation from the state, I don’t think that is fooling anyone as to where the spin or propaganda originates from. However it seemed mostly designed to reduce transparency. I’m not sure it is ever a very strong arguement to make, that it is best the taxpayers don’t know what their dollars are being used for, but the UCP seems to be trying to say that in this case.

    One other possible reason for the odd set up of this entity is perhaps Kenney somehow realized deep down this could easily all blow up badly in his face, so he wanted to keep a bit of distance from it, at least on paper. Perhaps that was a very prescient thought.

  2. Bob Raynard

    December 20th, 2019

    Too bad we only have the CEC’s word for it that Lead and Anchor will pay for the cost of re-branding. Actually, I am sure that Lead and Anchor will cover the cost; I wonder if they will be able to adjust their invoice after the fact.

    How much swag has already been bought with the illegitimate logo? I would love a fridge magnet.

  3. Abs

    December 20th, 2019

    And the big question on Twiiter: who owns Lead & Anchor? Someone close to the UCP? is Somebody’s getting rich with this. Lead anchors sink ships.

    • Jim

      December 20th, 2019

      Anne McKinnon, Elle Toms, and a couple of dogs were listed on the site before it went dark.

  4. Joyce Thomas

    December 20th, 2019

    A $30 million/$195,000 wage ‘comedy/tragedy/bozo eruption of errors’ on the Alberta taxpayer’s dime.
    You can’t make this stuff up.

  5. Abs

    December 20th, 2019

    And while we’re on the topic of stealing things, I’ve noticed a similarity between Tom Olsen and Julian Assange. Can we be sure that there is really a “Tom Olsen” or is he not what he appears to be, either? I mean, if “photo of generic Alberta city” is actually “Bay Street, Toronto” on the War Room’s sociial media, who’s to say this is not all the nefarious plot of “the real Tom Olsen”, aka Juiian Assange?

    I can’t wait for the Austin Powers movie about the Kenney Years. Should be a doozy.

  6. Bill Malcolm

    December 20th, 2019

    Hell, I cannot believe it, Forget Alberta for a moment. The Liberal government of Nova Scotia has stood by their previous legislation from five years ago that the pollution being pumped by the Northern Pulp mill into a lagoon/sea shore called Boat Harbour on Pictou Landing First Nation Reserve since 1967 has to stop unless remediated. 80 million litres a day of gunk will now cease from next Jan 31. Time’s up and the company sat on its hands. I have to applaud Premier Stephen McNeil. He was unequivocal and serious today, no prevarication whatsoever and gave no sign of being “sorry” or utter any weasel words. That’s it for the mill.

    The company has tried to blackmail the province into giving up their anti-pollution stance by getting the mill workers and all the forestry workers and wood lot owners who supply it to lobby to keep the plant open. We had a 20 mile tailback of logging trucks parked by the side of the Trans Canada yesterday from the city out to the country almost to the airport to put a bit of pressure on the government. There’s thousands of people who are affected. The pulp company, for its part, had produced two amateur sketches/plans of a new pollution control system in response to an order to produce a viable new way to treat the effluent. Just daring the pols to capitulate. Those two plans were rejected as useless by the NS government as amateur efforts. The plan such as it was comprised building a pipe out into the sea between NS and PEI to poison lobster instead of people. PEI objected vehemently, naturally.

    Well, now we have the union people at the mill going apesh!t at losing their jobs, and well over 10,000 woodlot owners and workers at saw mills producing chips and pulp producers are on the warpath. They couldn’t believe their ears despite repeated warnings. Can’t wrap it through their tiny minds that the pollution was unacceptable, or that a First Nation community had to eat the pollution for 52 years. The actual attitude shows why no nation is willing to abate emissions in the face of climate change. Australia burns and yet opens giant new coal mines. Most pols don’t have the guts to do anything to combat the depradations of the wealthy.

    Kind of reminds me of the Alberta situation. It’s full steam ahead on tarsands bitumen extraction, the tailing ponds grow apace, and not a UCP/Con soul gives a ratsh!t about the desecration. I believe a First Nation community is surrounded on three sides by those ponds. Yet all Kenney and the dough-heads who voted him in can think about is filthy lucre and bugger everything else.

    I count this as the first major anti-pollution decision made in Canada. And NS is not a rich place. Our per capita GDP at $46K compares to Alberta at $84K. We have a provincial sales tax, Alberta does not. We have a decisive leader, Alberta/Kenney invents a dysfunctional propaganda private company to steamroller opposition to their toxic resource extraction.

    Never voted Liberal in my life except Trudeau in 1974, but by golly provincially I will next time. McNeil deserves plaudits. You have to start somewhere at being serious rather than writing regs for EVs or banning plastic bags, and then sitting back panting at the sheer effort while you check Twitter.

    • Jerrymacgp

      December 21st, 2019

      Perhaps the better solution to the pulp mill matter, instead of closing it outright & throwing all those people out of work, maybe would have been for the NS Gov’t to expropriate it, lock, stock & barrel, turn it into a provincial Crown Corp’n, and give its new management a strict mandate to clean up its act but continue operating, even if at a loss.

  7. J.E. Molnar

    December 20th, 2019

    Not My Circus — Not My Monkeys!!

    With the Keystone Kops in charge of the government’s propaganda site and war room, you just know trying to weaponize stupidity and futility are not going to end well for the United Conservative Party of Alberta. Can Alberta voters finally get an election do-over?

  8. Keith McClary

    December 20th, 2019

    It took me a whole minute to screenshot the logo and drop it into Google Image Search.–sIfSI4qlQKstmo0w3MrEv6UTCukzaYi6enpsfrbfWvryV4e&hl=en-CA

  9. ronmac

    December 20th, 2019

    You wonder if the logo was outsourced to one of those freelancer bidding sites for fifty bucks?

  10. the salamander

    December 21st, 2019

    .. the disaster of Boat Harbour needs to be held up to all Canadians. Why ?

    Here is why.. the scale of the Boat Harbour pollution and the pulp mill closure are light years from the remarkably similar disaster of Alberta’s tar sands and well pollution. Though both scenes are in Canada eh.. can anyone speculate on a scale of 100 where – if the tar sands remediation costs & natural consequences are at 90.. where the cost & consequences are for Boat Harbour remediation ? How about comparing Grassy Narrows remediation vs tar sands, costs, health consequences & natural consequences ?

    OK.. why a scale of 100 and Alberta’s tar sands at 90 ? Because we are ramping up extraction and emissions in order to lower emission … later. We have to leave room for Alberta’s disaster to reflect expansion, not remediation or solution. Is there an actual solution.. Anyone ? The tar sands and fracking are sucking up clean fresh potable water for free and in payment producing equal amounts of toxic liquid chemical wastes. Seepage into the Athabaska river system continues daily.. constantly in fact.. as does methane & CO2 etc escape from approx 250,000 wells. The two types of fluids leaking from fracking wells is usually constant. There is ‘processed’ water from the injection and fracturing process which utilizes mixtures of frack sand (silicates) and proprietory secret chemical mixes. And then there is natural seepage from the well bores which also pushes residual chemical and silicates or radiation to the surface.. for holding ponds or re-injection elsewhere ? The local water tables ? It all flows downhill, does it not ?

    In my view, Alberta will never remediate this disaster. Thus my question. Can Canada and Canadians remediate Boat Harbour. Can we, all across Canada essentially fund an entire town, its regional areas.. while rapidly and radically shifting Boat Harbour and related industries into specializing in remediation & all its aspects and facets – ie refining best practices in that field of endeavor ?

    Why that’s a monumental undertaking !! How much might that cost to subsidize ? How long till the entire interconnected community has adapted and is succeeding ? How long before the rest of the world starts paying attention & requests Canada’s help and expertise ? Meanwhile, Jason Kenney believes the rest of Canada, aside from Alberta must help pay for a partial level of remediation ? IE remediation of some of the leaking conventional wells. Approx 1000,000 of those wells pump nothing or under 10 barrels of petroleum per year. 50,000 are simply ‘orphaned’.

    Can Canada and Canadians just accept that we are taken for fools and being fleeced ? Meanwhile it seems the construction of pipelines is so all important to ‘Nation Building’ and ‘Growing The Economy’ that the RCMP are prepared to use snipers, automatic weapons, helicopters to break down peaceful First Nation protesters on their own unceded ancestral lands. Does anyone care to dispute this RCMP ‘tactical plan’ ?? Since it would include the killing of some of the protesters (what else would a 308 cal sniper round as a head shot, center mass or thigh result in ??) Has the Prime Minister of Canada or the Premier of British Columbia been informed in writing by senior RCMP ? What do they have to say ? Or is this going to be like the classic Russian history “if only the emperor knew” ??2

    What is dreadfully wrong with this picture ? Besides everything ?

  11. Bob Raynard

    December 21st, 2019

    Graham Thompson talked about the logo situation on CBC Edmonton yesterday afternoon. Apparently, the Ministry of Truth is still using the logo, in spite of their acknowledgement that it isn’t their logo. I am wondering if they are in negotiations with Progress Software to buy the right to use the blue version of their logo. I guess we will know they were able to negotiate a price if we hear an announcement that Progress has agreed to let the MoT use the logo. Too bad we will have to trust them that it was a fair price.

  12. Just Me

    December 22nd, 2019

    One wonders how much thought went into making this obvious boondoggle not look like an obvious boondoggle.

    Tuning down the belligerence of a “war room” into something more benign and calling it something generic and neutered, Canadian Energy Centre Ltd, only proves that these cats really are as whacked as the movie version of “Cats”. (Capsule movie review: don’t. Just don’t)

    At this point, I’m sure everyone will be wondering about what is happening to that $30M allocation for the former war room. Supposedly outside of FOIP, will it be $30M or considerably more? Enquiring minds are now asking, and for good reasons.

    Given Kenney’s propensity to rely on half-truths, outright lies, and conspiracy theories to form the basis of his governance, Albertans have to pause and ask themselves…the war room…the threats of environmentalists and their NGOs…the laundry list of demands for Ottawa to pay what is Alberta’s due…and so on and so on. Were they all had by a greasy, glad-handing, angry midget?

    If Albertans prove to me that they are not the stupidest people alive, they will see through Kenney’s nonsense and see it all for the Potemkin village it really is.

    What a wonderful Christmas gift, Alberta suddenly realizing that something is calls itself conservative cannot be trusted.

    Who knew?

    • tom in ontario

      December 22nd, 2019

      “…these cats are really as whacked as the movie version of “Cats”. Holy catnip, Albertans should storm the nearest shelter and never come out.

  13. Keith McClary

    December 23rd, 2019

    A crude example of lying with statistics:

    “As for natural gas, the one pipeline Canada has under construction will add 2.1 billion cubic feet (bcf) per day in new capacity. In the United States since 2014, the 118 natural gas pipelines that have been completed and another 25 that are under construction — for 143 in total vs. our one — will provide a total of 58.5 bcf daily”

    They are comparing capacities without regard for length, so (hypothetical example) a 10 km US pipeline would count the same as a 1000 km Canadian pipeline of the same (bcf per day) capacity.


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