Rants In Our Pants

BP Salvages Tattered Rep by Buying Google Ads

What do you do when you’re dumping 200,000 gallons of crude into the ocean each day and are totally incompetent to stop it? Wage a PR campaign on Google.

By (@tynanwrites)

June 9, 2010

BP has been busy busy busy. First, of course, there was that little incident in the gulf, followed by the numerous failed attempts to stanch that gushing wound in mother earth — the "top hat" dome, the "cofferdam" dome, the "top kill,” and so on. We’re still waiting for them to lower an obese Homer Simpson into the hole in an attempt to plug the gusher. Hey, it worked for Springfield.

And yet, while doing all of that, BP has also found time to buy up Google and Yahoo search terms, so people searching for information about the worst environmental disaster in our planet’s history can hear about it from BP first. Search for "oil spill" or "Deepwater Horizon" and you’ll see the following sponsored ad at the top of the search results:

Which in turn leads you to this handsomely appointed Web site, where among other things we learn that "Beach goers continue to enjoy the hot summer weather while tar balls are washed ashore in Gulf Shores, AL." (Later, beach goers will have a rousing tar ball fight and build a ‘tar man’ in the shape of BP CEO Tony Hayward.)

Because even if BP can’t scrub the oil out of a pelican’s feathers, it can certainly polish what’s left of its miserable reputation. PR professionals contacted for this story (not by us, of course) say this is a normal — even smart — thing for corporations to do. Organizations looking to salvage their reps would be wise to buy up as many relevant search terms as possible before somebody else does. It happens all the time, they say.

We did a little research. And you know what? They’re right. Groups that feel they’ve been unfairly maligned by public opinion have been doing this for decades.

Take the state of Arizona, for example. After an uproar over its new laws targeting illegal aliens, supporters of the bill bought up terms like "immigration reform."

The birther movement has taken to Google ads as well, A search for "President Obama" produces the following ad:

The classic example is, of course, the Nazis:

If anybody knew how to manipulate public opinion, it was those crafty Germans. BP could learn a lot from them. In some ways, it already has.

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