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PR Fail: BP's Latest Ad is Really Crude
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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See what I did there?

Whelp, BP  — British Petroleum, Bad Plumbing, Bogus Plan, Beach Polluters  whatever you wish to call it after its whoopsie-daisy incident of 2010 flooded the Gulf of Mexico with 4 million barrels of its black damnation, is at it again. And by "it," I mean to say, "causing five states' cases of hemorrhoids to flare up again," along with the company's PR team. In case you missed it, BP has determined it needs another PR push, so it figured begging for empathy would work. 

Not. So. Much. 

As noted in 
AdAgeBP took to The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post with a catchy full-page ad adorned with the grammatically inept headline, "This isn't the settlement we agreed to." The advertisement goes on to read that BP has "spent $14 billion on cleanup and response and $11 billion on claims" since 2010. So? There's this:

Last year, we signed a settlement agreement to ensure that people who suffered losses from the accident would keep being paid. When we negotiated that agreement, we sat down in good faith with the goal of helping as many deserving people as possible. And when we signed it that's what we thought the agreement would do. Unfortunately, it's now being applied in a way that ignores the agreement's plain language, with enormous payments going to businesses that did not suffer any losses.

In the words of my fine New York PR brethren, "Boo #@$*&* Hoo."

Now, agreed, there's much that stinks about this (and not just the wildlife still dealing with oil suds). There are ne'er-do-wells who saw a golden opportunity to get some green because hundreds of people are being compensated for losses that are proven unrelated to the oil spill. People (with attorneys) citing "revenue dips," "lost resources," and "redirected traffic" for locations as far as two hours away from the coast. Another example in Bloomberg BusinessWeek: A construction company in northern Alabama (albeit 200 miles from the Gulf Coast) was awarded $9.7 million for "lost revenue on estimated bids." And BP had to foot that bill, too. 

Again, no one in their right mind (and not employed with BP) is crying over this, but that's a skosh illegal and the oil company is mad as hell and they don't want to take it anymore. BP spokesperson Geoff Morrell said, “While we remain committed to paying legitimate claims, we did not agree to pay for fictitious losses, or for claims that are based on fraud or tainted by corruption.” Back to the ad:

An obvious question is why BP would ever agree to a settlement that could be distorted in this way. The answer is simple: We didn't. We agreed to a settlement that would pay legitimate claims for real financial losses. And that's why we're fighting to stop awards to businesses that had no losses.

You're the pros in PR land. What do you think? There are two oil-stained sides to this nasty coin: 

1. You have a company trying to pay its penance  literally. Meanwhile, everyone with a weed against the Deepwater Horizon rig has found a legal beagle with the scent of revenge. Don't worry if they are real claims. Just focus on sticking it to the man, right?

2. Captain Toolbox CEO Tony Hayward sorely underestimated the damages caused by the oil spill, so naysayers (and politicians) believe they are just paying for what they should rightly be paying for in the first place. 

If you were on the BP PR team, what would you do? Fight through advertising, try to make nice, or just quit and find a gig at the local McDonalds?

   

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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