Lame BP Ads Get Criticism, Not Sympathy

Published on
by
the Associated Press

Lame BP Ads Get Criticism, Not Sympathy

by
Jennifer Kay

BP's "Deeply Sorry" CEO Tony Hayward. Public-relations experts said BP's ad blitz seems premature and a little shallow.

MIAMI - An apologetic advertising campaign by BP PLC for the oil
spill polluting the Gulf of Mexico is going over about as well as the
tar balls and rust-colored froth washing ashore in the Florida
Panhandle.

The new radio, TV, online and print ads feature BP CEO
Tony Hayward pledging to fix the damage caused by an undersea gusher of
crude oil unleashed by an April 20 drilling rig explosion that killed 11
people.

The company will honor financial claims and "do
everything we can so this never happens again," he says in the spots.

The
ads began appearing last week and have been criticized by President
Barack Obama, who said the money should be spent on cleanup efforts and
on compensating fishermen and small business owners who have lost their
jobs because of the spill.

The ads also don't thrill residents and
visitors of the Gulf Coast, where the oil has blackened some beaches
and threatens others. And others say the sentiments come to soon and
insincerely.

"Their best advertising is if they get this cap (in
place) and they get everything cleaned up. All you've got to do is do
your job, and that's going to be plenty of good advertising," said
Grover Robinson IV, chairman of the Escambia County, Fla., Commission,
referring to BP's efforts to place a cap over the gushing pipe and
capture the oil.

BP spokesman Robert Wine said in an e-mail
Saturday that "not a cent" has been diverted from the oil spill response
to pay for the ad campaign. He didn't know its cost.

"All
available resources are being deployed, and efforts continue at full
strength," he wrote.

BP estimates that it will spend about $84
million through June to compensate for lost wages and profits caused by
the spill. The company has promised to pay all legitimate claims, and no
claim has yet been rejected, Wine said.

Shortly after the
one-minute television and online version of the ad begins, Hayward
speaks to the camera, saying "The Gulf spill is a tragedy that never
should have happened."

Hayward then narrates over images of boom
lying in clear water before uncontaminated marshes and healthy pelicans.
Cleanup crews walk with trash bags on white sand beaches as he touts
the oil giant's response efforts: more than 2 million feet of boom, 30
planes and more than 1,300 boats deployed, along with thousands of
workers at no cost to taxpayers.

The ad's imagery clashes with
disturbing news photographs published recently of pelicans coated in
oil, gunk dripping from their beaks.

"To those affected and your
families, I'm deeply sorry," Hayward says in the ad.

As the ad
fades out to show BP's website and volunteer hot line, he says, "We will
get this done. We will make this right."

Picking up tar Saturday
with her parents at Pensacola Beach, Fla., 13-year-old Annie Landrum of
Birmingham, Ala., called Hayward's apology a joke.

"It's a lame
attempt a month and half after the disaster. It's too late," she said.

Public-relations
experts said BP's ad blitz seems premature and a little shallow. BP
missed an opportunity to shift focus away from criticism of the company
and toward BP's strategy for cleaning up the spill, said Gene Grabowski,
a senior vice president with Levick Strategic Communications.

"The
one element they seem to be missing is laying out a plan for what
they're going to do," he said. "Usually in ads like these you apologize;
he's doing that in the ad. You talk about your resolve to fix the
situation; that's also included. But what's missing is a concrete plan
or vision for what they plan to do next."

Contributing
to this report were Associated Press writers Jordan Robertson in San
Francisco, Bill Kaczor in Pensacola, Fla., and Melissa Nelson in
Pensacola Beach, Fla.

Online: BP video: http://tinyurl.com/22tnz2c

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