Why I Don’t Want the BP Account


bp_smallADOTAS – For the record, no one offered it to me.

But in the marketing industry trade press, there has been a lot of analysis about BP, their handling of PR, their selection of a PR agency, etc.

And in an online poll conducted by AdAge on June 4, 45% of the more than 300 respondents said they would “rise to the challenge” to handle the company’s advertising account.

I ask: Why?

Though I walk to work, recycle and am part of a one car family, my reason for not wanting the BP account isn’t ethical or environmental.

My reasoning is based on how new and social media has changed the way we communicate. If BP is ever going to refurbish its image in America, the company is going to need to engage with Americans in an open and honest dialogue through social media.

And until they can stop the oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, any engagement with American will be as toxic.

It’s not that I don’t believe in preemptive marketing to help minimize the damage, I just don’t believe that by buying keywords and running a TV advertising campaign BP is helping it’s cause. The company is just spending money that would be better spent on cleaning the Gulf of Mexico and compensating those that are losing their livelihood from the oil spill.

For the time being, BP should be following Domino’s playbook from their most recent ad campaign, where they admitted the shortcomings of their pizza.

Aside from this, they should stop all advertising and even most outbound PR efforts until they have gotten the leak under control.

Social media has definitely evolutionized how the online marketing community communicates with the public, and not all of the changes are necessarily good. But instead of cashing in on the opportunity BP created, we should be honest with ourselves, our industry, the public and BP.


  1. Correct. Until they stop the leak, any PR engagement with America will be viewed as toxic. At this point, their best PR can only come from indirectly taking more of a proactive, empathetic (and timely) stance on victim compensation and clean-up efforts (while not asking for anything in return). Rather than spending 50 million on advertising campaigns or rewarding stockholders with dividends, they need to immediately divert billions towards the victims and clean-up efforts (not waiting for U.S. Government interaction, which means that it is too late at that point).

    This is money they will most likely need to pay out in the future anyhow, so they might as well do it while there is still any bit of image to be preserved. And while it won’t ultimately soften the blow of a leak that continues to flow unabated into the Gulf, it will have a profound effect on swaying media perception. When an event like this elevates to the status of environmental catastrophe as it has, no amount of money can buy you positive PR. At this point, it comes down to unselfish and empathetic action—something BP is either refusing to do (is too legally scared to do), or thinks it can remedy after the fact. Problem is, this crisis is happening in real time, and real lives are being affected in profound ways. So, the classic rules of PR don’t apply. The only thing that will work is to just simply “do the right thing, right now.” Their biggest mistake (other than the spill itself) is actually thinking that PR can make any difference at this point.

  2. This is honestly just too hippy dippy. Your assumptions are inherently anti-capitalistic. If your core value is the environment, then why don’t you admit that? I would respect it.

    While I believe the BP folks need to get their stuff together and STOP THE LEAK, as capitalists we have obligations to our shareholders. If they want to work with agencies, we should help them.

    This said, our #1 point of advice should be:


  3. Dan, Anonymous,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.

    Anonymous — I must be more capitalistic than you, because I don’t want BP to be wasting their money on PR and Ad agencies today, when it won’t help them. After they stop the leak, then by all means, they should be investing in the marketing communications that will help increase shareholder value.

    I did read an interesting post on the Dachis Group blog (note: BP is a client of the Dachis Group) about some of the things BP could be doing in social media: http://www.dachisgroup.com/2010/06/would-being-more-social-help-bp/


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