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BP Online Marketing in Oil Spill Response – Using Google Adwords to Get Their Message Out

June 18, 2010

This is the first in a series of posts to show how BP is using online marketing to “try” to salvage their reputation and get their side of the story out over the Gulf oil spill. We first broke this story to Billy Nungesser, Plaquemines Parish President, on June 5 and it was then shown on CNN on June 7. BP’s online advertising followed close on the heels of its unsuccessful and short-lived TV ad campaign back on 3 June.

PLEASE don’t take from this that I think in any way BP is doing a good job at this. I’m mad as a hornet over what’s happening in the Gulf and the devastation the oil spill is having on our environment.  I do think there are some marketing, PR, and crisis communications we can learn from how BP handles this (or doesn’t).

Here is an ad that BP is running when you search on the phrase “volunteer for oil spill”.  They are running the same ads on many other forms of the word oil spill, always in the #1 Ad position, meaning they are spending a ton of money on PR to get their version of the story out.

This ad sends you to BP’s You Tube channel where they have about a hundred different videos. They set up this channel on May 18, less than 4 weeks ago.  Note the clever URL name in the ad above “www.BP.com/OilSpillClean. That gags me, to be honest! Here’s what you see after you click on their Adwords ad.  It’s interesting that when you first get to the YouTube channel page, the June 3 ill-fated Tony Hayward ad runs automatically, even though it’s below the fold, as shown below. They are investing all this money in advertising, but quality control on the process is not great.

Here’s the “below the fold” Tony Hayward video. Note how they have disabled your ability to comment on their videos. Very clever of them to not want any viewer feedback, a mainstay of why people love YouTube. It’s also noteworthy that all the advertising must be working, over a half million people have viewed the one Tony Hayward video.  Over 630,000 total views on the channel since May 18.

Another little quality issue was this page that came up when I clicked on the link for submitting a claim on the related Louisiana section of their site.  Very convenient; they won’t have to worry about spending the $20B if that keeps up.

For the record, I sent their webmaster an email to let them know about the broken link error. Here is the auto-response I received “Thanks for your email. Email responses will be sent only to individuals who are submitting photos, video or information for the website. We would like to thank everyone for their submissions.” This response made no sense to me, and in fact made me angry.

The “so what” of this post is to show how BP is using Google Adwords tied into a YouTube channel as one of their major ways to get their message during the oil spill crisis.  It allows them to totally control the message, although they must be destroying a lot of credibility by the poor quality issues and turning off standard viewer feedback controls. It shows the power of video over more standard landing pages, particularly when selling an emotional story like this. A picture of clean beaches and sampled water is worth a thousand words about the nice job they think they are doing. We will keep looking at how they are using online marketing in response to their crisis in the Gulf.

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