In a very questionable public relations move, BP placed the above full-page ad in the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.
The ad claims that BP is being taken advantage of by lawyers and people who were never financially hurt by the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
It reads, in part:
Last year, we signed a settlement agreement to ensure that people who suffered losses from the accident would keep being paid. When we negotiated that agreement, we sat down in good faith with the goal of helping as many deserving people as possible. And when we signed it that's what we thought the agreement would do. Unfortunately, it's now being applied in a way that ignores the agreement's plain language, with enormous payments going to businesses that did not suffer any losses.
Obviously, the common man and woman are not the target of the ad.
As Burson-Marsteller public affairs lead Steve Lombardo told AdAge:
[The campaign] is geared toward opinion and thought leaders across the country and in D.C. who might influence policy makers and set the record straight in their minds. It's a good strategy. They really went out of their way to be proactive on this and tell people what's going on. That's a bit unusual, I think."
If it sounds to you like Lombardo is angling for some BP PR business for Burson-Marsteller, that's because he is.
Geoff Morrell, VP and head of U.S. communications for BP, said:
"Today we are working to ensure that our willingness to do the right thing is not taken advantage of and distorted to provide windfalls to undeserving businesses, including law firms. ... We owe it to our shareholders and employees to do so, and we believe everyone should know that the unmooring of this settlement from the express terms of the agreement changes the calculus other businesses will consider when deciding whether to settle or litigate."
"Unmooring?" I don't think I would have used that word while discussing the worst oil rig disaster in history. And whoever the ad is actually targeting (Congresspeople), millions of Americans still very freshly upset about the disaster saw it and read it. I'm sure BP's own lawyers are all over these law firms Morrell speaks of.
If BP feels this strong of a need to advertise, they should get back to doing positive messaging executions, similar to the "We will make this right" ads they did a few months after the disaster.