As with any field, it’s so easy to forget that people outside of that area don’t have the knowledge that you take for granted.
Leaving aside the obvious environmental aspects and the political blame game, there’s another fascinating element involved (in my opinion). BP clearly have a handle on their PR and are trying to conduct damage limitation, one facet of that is using Google Adwords so that searching for terms like ‘bp oil spill’ brings up a ppc ad which links to a page on their site explaining what they are doing about the oil spill. To someone like myself, who is very familiar with adwords and how it works, this seems like a straightforward and practical thing to do. Whilst the message might be debatable, the mechanism strikes me as ethical and transparent (in the sense that anyone could be using it – the ethics of Google are a whole different conversation).
But, wait, what’s this? Lots of people are complaining that this is somehow underhand and unethical, that Google shouldn’t be jumping into bed with BP (I know!) and that these ads should be banned. Take a look at this page from the bbc site and look at the comments. A quick trawl through other sites reveals similar comments and stories.
Clearly, lots of people are not aware of the mechanism that controls ppc ads like Google Adwords. It strikes me as well that many of the journalists commenting on this story aren’t that clear either. Otherwise, instead of speculating how much BP might be spending on their ads, they’d look at the search volumes, check the cost through an adwords account and make an accurate estimate (just like any online marketer would do).
If I was running BP’s reputation management / damage limitation exercise online, I’d currently be looking at influencing the organic search results using social media, paid links (dodgy ground) and content generation – amongst other seo tactics & tools. If people are getting concerned about the ethics of ppc – how would they react to that! Needless to say, if I was doing that, I’d be doing it discretely, but then isn’t that the essence of online reputation management?