Spinning vs. Solving

Holy crap!

The (London) Daily Telegraph is reporting that BP will announce this week, in a report to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, that “in the 18 weeks since the fatal explosion and subsequent spill, the oil giant has spent at least $1m a week on network television, cable and radio advertising.”

Here is a link to the full article.

Unless I missed something, the ads promote BP’s commitment to addressing the crisis caused by the oil spill in the gulf.  I don’t have a problem with BP running advertising – or that the focus of their ads is to promote their commitment to the gulf.  People should know that BP is committed to cleaning up the mess they created.  But if/when that advertising sends a message that is not consistent with the actions the company is taking, that’s when the problem arises.

Two thoughts:

1) I wrote a two-part column for the Chronicle of Philanthropy recently (Part I, Part II) about how we need to re-think the way we address serious issues, and respond when something like an oil spill occurs.  Seems to me that spending millions of dollars on advertising proves my point… BP, like everyone else, is using an old playbook and needs to find a new approach.

2) What a missed opportunity!  Spending millions of dollars on advertising to spin a story for people, especially when the public (who is paying attention) likely already knows, or assumes, that BP is committed to the cleanup, is a waste.  BP could/should have used the advertising to change the conversation, to solicit better ideas, to recruit support and assistance from people beyond their network.  Media has unprecedented reach, and influence, in our society.  It would have been exciting to see BP recognize that and use the media they created, and paid to promote, to explore what might have been possible.

I am looking forward to seeing the full report when its finally submitted.  And I bet that I know what the response will be (hint: outrage, yes, but not with a focus that resembles what I wrote above).