BP should fire its advertising consultants.
By the close of business.
A 50 million dollar advertising campaign that includes full page ads in newsrags like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and prime time television ads all over the place could not be a more counterproductive effort if it tried, especially if it relies on the same trite, overused platitudes we all utter when we don’t really mean what we are saying.
Don’t they have any Americans in their executive suite? Don’t they understand that the droll, understated British TV dramas and dry, ironic comedies that occasionally catch on in the U.S. are only watched by a fairly small slice of our population? That British accents are only cool if they come out of the mouths of handsome movie stars, popular rock stars—sorry, Tony Blair and Prince Charles—or soccer phenoms?
A convoy of Brinks trucks rolling west down the back roads that link the Gulf Coast communities together would be a much more effective tool that plays to our American love of excess, pageantry, and bigness. To have them stop at the local small town banks to deliver shrink wrapped pallets of cash, kind of the way our own U.S. military did in Iraq after we blew up all the buildings, then wanted the locals help to rebuild their schools and hospitals and police stations, would garner the front page on every paper in the country. Every news broadcast would begin with “leading off tonight is an unusual sight – a convoy of 50 Brink’s trucks, complete with security escorts, has been spotted going from town to town along the Gulf Coast, depositing cash in local banks. Even more unusual is the source of this operation—BP—which is opening accounts in small banks along the coast with one million dollars in cash, cash it says it plans to use to give these struggling areas some economic relief.”
Or if that seems too flashy, too over the top, too P.T. Barnum, then you can try something else, Mr. BP CEO—anything else, really—that involves handing out cash, minimal paperwork, and Gulf Coast residents. Trust me, the cameras will come. Anderson Cooper will pick up his collection of tight black t-shirts from the cleaners and jump on the first plane to Biloxi. President Obama might even take a break from reading his “Talking Shit 101 For Nerds” manual long enough to recognize this brave act of valor.
I know I am preaching to deaf ears. Purple Strategies, the political consulting firm behind these latest BP apology spots, is run by none other than Alex Castellanos, a GOP political operative whose view of the world seems to be “if we say something long enough, people will believe what they hear over what they see”, and Steve McMahon, a lesser known Democratic political operative. The Castellanos style of persuasion might have some success in the political world, where you can beat up on your opponent at the same time, but in this situation, where there is no bogey man that be conjured up as a target, the ads have to do all the heavy lifting. With a script that sounds scripted, and a CEO who can raise viewers blood pressure whenever they see him on TV, this is corporate suicide.
Please, please, please, BP—whatever you do, just quit running those god awful commercials.