Special Reports

BP starts blitz to repair image

BRADENTON — BP is on a media blitz to restore its image.

A new advertising campaign by BP has taken on an apologetic tone, and it is one that is getting heavy coverage among local and national media outlets.

The latest ads by BP are television spots that feature an apologetic Tony Hayward, chief executive officer for BP.

And in print, BP is reserving space to run a continuation of detailed updates on its response to the April 20 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In May, BP began running half- and full-page ads in the Bradenton Herald and St. Petersburg Times, as well as other papers, explaining what the oil company was working on to fix the leaking oil well.

“We will make it right.” the ads stated.

But since an effort to plug the hole with drilling fluid was unsuccessful, BP’s print ads have taken on a new message that states: “We will get this done. We will make it right.”

“Certainly, the BP advertising has detailed information and when you want to present information to the public in a credible manner, the newspapers certainly deliver,” said Dean Ridings, president and chief executive officer for the Florida Press Association. “Due to the ability to provide the in-depth text as well as the vehicle itself, it is an ideal form of media that probably will continue to be used during this disaster.”

The recent advertising campaign, however, has drawn criticism from President Obama as BP spent a reported $50 million on its latest TV advertisements that began airing Thursday.

Toby Odone, spokesperson for BP America, said BP’s ad campaign is not an attempt to repair its image but to respond to the oil spil.

“The ads were obviously run in relation to the oil spill response,” Odone said.

Odone would not disclose how much BP is spending on the campaign nor how long it will continue to run such advertisements.

“We will run as many as are needed,” Odone said. “We’re concentrating them mainly in the U.S. and obviously the Gulf Coast.”

The Bradenton Herald printed 11 BP ads in May. The St. Petersburg Times has run 15 ads from BP since May.

The ads come at a time when newspapers have been struggling due to declining ad revenue. But Ridings said this is not the way papers prefer to increase their bottom line.

“Any additional advertising is always welcome and a good thing,” Ridings said. “But it is unfortunate and no one is happy to see this type of advertising just because it is such a large disaster and we don’t fully know the ultimate economic impact yet.”

Sajeev Varki, associate professor of marketing at the University of South Florida’s College of Business, said BP’s approach in its advertisements is a common one among corporate entities today when dealing with a public relations crisis.

“They’re taking responsibility,” Varki said. “Ultimately, that’s the only option. We are quite forgiving people in some senses. The worst thing any company can do is to deny it, dodge it or cover it up.”

However, Obama criticized BP’s estimated $50 million budget on the TV ad campaign and said the money should be spent on cleanup and businesses impacted by the oil spill, according to the Associated Press.

Varki, however, said it could have been worse for BP’s image to ignore the issue.

“Fifty million is really a drop in the bucket for their media budget,” Varki said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a company like BP has at least $200 (million) to $300 million (for media). I can see there is public anger over this issue but they need to put out their response to the issue.”