BP Gets Aggressive | Adweek BP Gets Aggressive | Adweek
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BP Gets Aggressive

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Google users looking for the latest news on the estimated 25,000 to 40,000 barrels of oil a day gushing into the Gulf of Mexico will find, at the top of their search results, an ad from BP linking users to a microsite. The site explains BP's efforts to clean up the oil spill caused by an explosion on a drilling rig May 19. Those same users watching a video on YouTube would find a similar ad. Ditto for Facebook.

The company is taking an aggressive approach to getting its message online. Its strategy includes popular Internet destination ad buys and a social media effort implemented with the help of the PR arm of lead agency Ogilvy & Mather.

The Gulf of Mexico Response hub that BP set up would make most social media strategists proud. It's fed with information broadcast through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.

BP's Facebook page is also being used as a news distribution hub. Last week, it updated twice a day the real-time results of the amount of oil collected. BP also posted a video there discussing the health dangers posed to cleanup workers and another of congressional hearings on the spill.

The early results of the marketing offensive are unclear. Analysts are divided, saying BP risked backlash for the unseemly appearance of pouring money into ad buys at a time oil continues to spill into the gulf.

"The advertising could be perceived as very wasteful. [But] it's not like you can reorient your marketing department to clean up beaches," said Sarah Hofstetter, svp, emerging media and brand strategy at 360i. "I think they're doing a good job. There's news that's not getting covered by the media that could be valuable to consumers if they knew it."

Ogilvy declined to discuss its work on the BP account.

A BP spokesperson said of the outreach on social venues: "It's an additional communication tool [along with] the regular media. They appeal to a slightly different audience. They're more direct than other channels."

BP is no Ashton Kutcher in terms of its social media savvy. On Facebook, BP America, which employs nearly 100,000 people, has a meager 25,000 fans. Its footprint on Twitter is just 14,800 followers. The company, in a bizarre move, has even been soliciting friends in YouTube overlay ads.

"It's a little ironic that marketers who have long practiced the 'fish where the fish are' reach-based awareness play cannot make the natural evolution and leap to where their consumers are, where conversation takes place and where both have critical mass," said Joseph Jaffe, chief interrupter at Powered.

Social media has become a critical tool in the corporate crisis playbook. Domino's sought to defuse anger over a video of employees tainting pizza with a YouTube video featuring Domino's USA president Patrick Doyle apologizing. And Toyota hosted a live chat with U.S. president Jim Lentz on social news site Digg. Competitors were buying recall-related keywords, said Daina Middleton, president of Performics, the digital shop working with the company. "We were hourly trying to produce the right information," she said.

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