Google Oil Spill Aid: BP’s Expensive AdWords Campaign

In its effort to save itself from further trouble, BP is employing search engine marketing as a PR tool. Yes, search engine marketing can be used as a reputation management device, even if it’s not sustainable or long term solution. I posted an entry about the benefits of having multiple pages appearing on the same search query results citing that by trying to own the page for a certain keyword query, the information search engine users see is the one you want them to see. That’s probably in the mind of BP, which is now spending up to US$10,000 per day to maintain its ads at the most prominent ranking. Hopefully, to those who use the query to find more news (and probably more degrading to BP) they’ll be able to find an alternative tone, essentially a positive message in spite of the huge tragedy the spill has caused. All searches on Google for ‘BP oil spill’, ‘BP oil spill lawsuit’ and ‘BP suit’ show a sponsored listing from BP as the first result.

oil-spill-google-trends
Since the explosion of an oil rig that caused the oil spill in Gulf of Mexico, volume of search queries for ‘oil spill’ has increased tremendously.

Not only did BP employ Google AdWords to “carry its positive message”, its website’s homepage has now metamorphosed into a photo gallery of its efforts to address the problem. It features helicopters hovering the affected areas, workers contemplating on next move as others wander around the seashore looking for something.

But does BP really need to spend that much money to promote its promises to take full responsibility over the disaster? Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal slammed BP for its PR efforts, saying in a statement, “Instead of BP shelling out $50 million on an ad campaign that promises to do good work in responding to this spill, BP should just focus on actually doing a good job and spend the $50 million on assistance to our people, our industries and our communities that are suffering as a result of this ongoing spill.”

Discussing the use of sponsored links, a BP spokesman told the Fiscal Times: ‘The main aim is a marketing tool, to help the people who are most directly affected – fishermen, local businesses, volunteers in the cleanup. We want people to be able to find us, so we can work out how to minimize the impact on their lives and businesses’. But it seems that not every one at BP is willing to show what people want to see.

As a result, people have been looking elsewhere to express disappointment and anger. A Facebook page called Boycott BP now has over 500,000 members, while BP America’s official Facebook page only has a little over 20,000 members.

Indeed, BP could have offered the money directly to those who are affected: fishermen, workers who lost jobs, wildlife, and others. But it’s business, and an action like this one is always perceived as a smart move by stakeholders and those behind the brand. Smart, yes. Correct, probably not.