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Sometimes a “Feel-Good” Ad is Not Good Enough

by twafelbakker

Crude oil has been gushing from a faulty wellhead into the Gulf of Mexico for over 70 days now, and a viable solution to the problem has yet to be introduced. BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward, has been receiving immense criticism left and right for his actions since the spill, or lack thereof. In an effort to appease the understandably angry masses, BP launched an “apology” ad campaign. While the campaign is a nice gesture, it provides little assurance to viewers that an end is in sight.

In the beginning of the ad, Hayward’s voice is heard as a photograph of the oil in the ocean is shown. He says, “The Gulf spill is a tragedy that never should have happened.” He goes on to introduce himself and admit that BP takes responsibility for the disaster. The ad primarily focuses on clean up efforts and volunteerism, with a series of photos displaying the clean up. Hayward directly apologizes to the viewer and closes with, “We will get this done. We will make this right.” The ad is effective in that it conveys a feel-good sentiment to the viewer. The creators were also smart to include a Louisiana native employee in a second apology ad to send out the apologetic message, which translated as sincere, as opposed to a distant British board member apologizing, who is most likely not personally affected by the disaster.

What’s missing, however, is any mention of a plan to move forward with actually stopping the oil from spewing into the ocean. Currently, it is estimated that if the wellhead is removed and not capped, up to 100,000 barrels of oil could leak into the ocean every day. What is needed is a plan of action, not just pledges to clean up the mess.

It has been reported that BP spent $50 million for the advertising campaign, another number that has angered many people who believe that money should be spent on relief efforts. These ads also aired almost two months after the spill started – quite late for an apology. The ads probably would have stemmed criticism of BP if they had been released in a timelier manner.

All in all, the most important element of the “apology” is missing: a plan of action, which does little to comfort those who are being directly affected by the spill. Jobs are being lost, animals are dying, and the environment is deteriorating; all of this could continue for at least two years if that wellhead is not capped.

It’s all well and good that Hayward comes on the television and says he’s sorry, but that does not change the reality that tens of thousands of barrels (millions of gallons) of crude oil are going into the ocean twenty-four hours a day, and have been for the past 70 days. People are starting to ask questions, and this vapid attempt by BP to assure people that the mess will get cleaned up is undercutting and underestimating the intelligence of the American people. We want to know what BP is actively doing to stop this spill, not simply that waste is being collected as it washes up on our shores.

BP needs move forward in devising a plan that will stop this disaster, rather than spending tens of millions of dollars on advertisements in attempts to reconcile the backlash and hostility it’s receiving. Apologies, whether sincere or not, will not fix the situation. BP needs to stop putting out ads saying they are sorry and run something that tells the American people what they are doing and what they plan to do to stop this crisis.