Posted September 2, 2010 9:52 am by with 6 comments

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Because it is our nature to do such things, most of the world has moved on from the anger or whatever was experienced during the BP Deepwater Horizon oil mess in the Gulf of Mexico. There are still pockets of activism but the mainstream has started to flush that story out of its faulty and extremely short-termed memory and is moving on to something that is deemed more current and important like maybe politics (Oh, please God help us!).

In the wake of this waning uproar it looks like BP is working hard to put its reputation back together and a big part of that is the amount of advertising spend they have put into the stream.

The Wall Street Journal reports

BP PLC spent more than $93 million on newspaper advertisements and TV spots in the weeks following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, paying out three times as much money on ads as it did during the same time last year, according to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

BP also expanded the scope of its marketing efforts in newspapers during that time, running ads in 17 states—including Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi—up from just two states last year.

Of course, these activities have gained the attention of headline grabbing politicians who need some press leading up to the November showdown. Regardless of why, this kind of ‘marketing’ is part of the new normal course of action in how to repair a broken reputation that may not have much left in the tank (pun intended). So what is all this ad spend really for?

“Our objective has been to create informational advertising to assure people that we will meet our commitments and tell them how they can get help—especially claims,” said BP spokesman Scott Dean. “It is an important tool to help us be transparent about what we are doing.”

Not everyone is buying that explanation though.

Some lawmakers, however, are more suspicious of BP’s motives. Florida Democrat Kathy Castor, for example, was among the first representatives to take an interest in BP’s ad spending and believes the company is merely trying to burnish its image.

“She has been concerned by all the advertising showing BP polishing its corporate image,” said a spokeswoman for Ms. Castor.

Here’s my question. Because of the moral uproar that all of this mess caused and the hyper sensitivity of people in general when there is a ’cause du jour’, coupled with the new activism (I “Liked” it on Facebook so I participated! Yeah!), should there be any concern about who is taking the advertising money that is being spent to repair the damage?

I am not trying to create something out of nothing. I think it is a reasonable question to ask what outlets are taking this BP money gladly and not caring that it could be aiding and abetting the very ‘criminal’ it was trying to hang just a few short months ago.

I hope we are paying attention here. With the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality that the press takes there is a business reason for it. It sells ads. The news is the means to an end. The end being revenue in a time where it has been tougher to come by than maybe ever in history.

This unnatural and unseemly relationship between those who pay for advertising and those who have decided that human misery is always the lead story is heading in a new direction. Could it be that the media is just fine with feeding their revenue streams from diametrically opposed ends of the same issue?

The company that one day creates news by trashing the Gulf is the same company that is shelling out dollars to make reputation related amends. All that money all ends up with the same media that is supposedly reporting it (not benefiting from it). If that’s not a system that is designed to be abused and bled dry every day then there never will be one.

Maybe there is no sense in questioning this because I bet dollars to donuts that not one of the media outlets will turn down BP advertising money that is designed to make the company whole after it was torn to shreds by these very same people who ‘report’ the news (without any bias 😉 Ha!).

This dysfunctional yet symbiotic relationship is something that may be a dilemma for some marketers. Maybe not. So what’s your take? Mountain out of a molehill? Is this really as broken as it looks? As marketers, is there a moral side of our actions or are we just to do whatever it takes to make the bottom line sing? Any thoughts on this one?

  • Dean

    Molehill. BP has the right to repair its image. People have the right to ignore or accept their efforts. What’s the big deal? Is there some sort of advertising purgatory I haven’t heard about?

    • No such thing. You can advertise as much as you want. Are you completely convinced that they are most interested in cleaning up the Gulf or their image? Nothing about whether they should or not it’s the impression they leave by doing it.

  • Don’t worry there will be plenty of agencies taking BP’s money –

    These Marketers/Spin Doctors are the Sociopaths, Lawyers, Politicians that
    don’t get elected. they’ll be happy to do the dirty work.

    Take the infamous Agency Hill & Knowlton –
    Type in the keywords Tobacco and Gulf War & Astroturfing

    Follow the money. Don’t believe what you read.

  • For me its a big deal… They destroy the nature, take our money, dont say thank you… TBC and they think they could repair their image with ads? If the person which views the ads has a brain, they cant repair anything!

    But there are enough people which dont think at all 🙁

  • I think BP’s advertising is so hypocritical, the use of a green flower image as a logo, promotes that they are a green company which clearly is not the case and only adds to the misrepresentation of an oil company trying to appear environment friendly in an ever increasing green aware society.

    • I totally agree with you! BP is trying to fool their customers with pictures of natural environments while they are destroying them. They are monetizing the nature at all costs while claiming that they care for mother nature. Its a shame! Well, same counts for other oil companies like shell and esso (tiger) as well. Mostly all multinational companys are not caring about the environment – Even the whole “green power” movement is into making money instead of protecting the nature.