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Jun 6, 2010 2:06 PM by Chris Welty

Apologetic BP ADs Get Criticism, Not Sympathy

MIAMI (AP) - An apologetic advertising campaign by BP PLC for
the oil spill polluting the Gulf of Mexico is going over about as
well as the tar balls and rust-colored froth washing ashore in the
Florida Panhandle.
The new radio, TV, online and print ads feature BP CEO Tony
Hayward pledging to fix the damage caused by an undersea gusher of
crude oil unleashed by an April 20 drilling rig explosion that
killed 11 people.
The company will honor financial claims and "do everything we
can so this never happens again," he says in the spots.
The ads began appearing last week and have been criticized by
President Barack Obama, who said the money should be spent on
cleanup efforts and on compensating fishermen and small business
owners who have lost their jobs because of the spill.
The ads also don't thrill residents and visitors of the Gulf
Coast, where the oil has blackened some beaches and threatens
others. And others say the sentiments come to soon and insincerely.
"Their best advertising is if they get this cap (in place) and
they get everything cleaned up. All you've got to do is do your
job, and that's going to be plenty of good advertising," said
Grover Robinson IV, chairman of the Escambia County, Fla.,
Commission, referring to BP's efforts to place a cap over the
gushing pipe and capture the oil.
BP spokesman Robert Wine said in an e-mail Saturday that "not a
cent" has been diverted from the oil spill response to pay for the
ad campaign. He didn't know its cost.
"All available resources are being deployed, and efforts
continue at full strength," he wrote.
BP estimates that it will spend about $84 million through June
to compensate for lost wages and profits caused by the spill. The
company has promised to pay all legitimate claims, and no claim has
yet been rejected, Wine said.
Shortly after the one-minute television and online version of
the ad begins, Hayward speaks to the camera, saying "The Gulf
spill is a tragedy that never should have happened."
Hayward then narrates over images of boom lying in clear water
before uncontaminated marshes and healthy pelicans. Cleanup crews
walk with trash bags on white sand beaches as he touts the oil
giant's response efforts: more than 2 million feet of boom, 30
planes and more than 1,300 boats deployed, along with thousands of
workers at no cost to taxpayers.
The ad's imagery clashes with disturbing news photographs
published recently of pelicans coated in oil, gunk dripping from
their beaks.
"To those affected and your families, I'm deeply sorry,"
Hayward says in the ad.
As the ad fades out to show BP's website and volunteer hot line,
he says, "We will get this done. We will make this right."
Picking up tar Saturday with her parents at Pensacola Beach,
Fla., 13-year-old Annie Landrum of Birmingham, Ala., called
Hayward's apology a joke.
"It's a lame attempt a month and half after the disaster. It's
too late," she said.
Public-relations experts said BP's ad blitz seems premature and
a little shallow. BP missed an opportunity to shift focus away from
criticism of the company and toward BP's strategy for cleaning up
the spill, said Gene Grabowski, a senior vice president with Levick
Strategic Communications.
"The one element they seem to be missing is laying out a plan
for what they're going to do," he said. "Usually in ads like
these you apologize; he's doing that in the ad. You talk about your
resolve to fix the situation; that's also included. But what's
missing is a concrete plan or vision for what they plan to do
next."

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