Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Now, Google AdWords comes to BP's aid

S Kalyana Ramanathan / London June 10, 2010

In yet another bid to manage the raging crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, oil major BP today said it had bought the “oil spill” search string in So, the next time when an internet user types “oil spill” in, the first response in the search results will be a link directing to BP’s micro website that is dedicated to disseminating information on how it is handling the crisis on the ground . Buying of search strings is a product from the search-engine giant and is called Google AdWords.

A BP spokesperson here said this initiative was just to ensure that all stakeholders could easily find what the company was doing to overcome the oil spill crisis and also made it easy for affected parties to place their claims. “It is also for people to sign up as volunteers,” said a company spokesperson.

On April 20, BP’s semi-submersible exploratory offshore rig, Deepwater Horizon, in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and sank two days later, causing 11 deaths and spilling oil across the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Florida coasts. From an initial estimate of 1,000 barrels a day, the company later had to accept the US government estimate that it could be losing as much as 5,000 barrels of crude every day.

From an early estimate of $6-million loss a day, today BP’s loss clock is ticking at $22 million a day and overall cost, including cleaning efforts, financial compensation and material loss, is expected to be closer to $800 million, before it sees the end of this crisis.

Last Sunday, BP’s 53-year old CEO Tony Hayward appeared on BBC’s flagship political programme, The Andrew Marr Show, and gave his commitment that his company would ensure it leaves Gulf of Mexico exactly the way it was before the crisis. “We are going to stop the leak. We are going to clean up the oil (spill), we are going to remediate any environmental damage, and we are going to return the Gulf coast to the position it was prior to this event. That’s an absolute commitment and we will be there long after the media is gone, making good on our promises,” said Hayward.

The buying of a two-word search string in is only a small part of a massive crisis-management effort that BP has rolled out over the past few weeks. Since the first news of the oil spill came out in the third week of April, BP’s communication systems had metamorphosed into what seems like a giant living organism that attempts to address every question shot at it.

Apart from taking some help from, the BP website has undergone a complete facelift, with links to every possible aspect of the oil spill crisis. Several remotely-operated vehicles are used to provide real-time feed of the oil spill and attempts to cap the spill.

The BP spokesperson was unable to provide more details on how it was using its online communication team to quell the negative publicity the company has been subject to for the last several weeks. A Google spokesperson in the UK said:

“Google AdWords allows companies, political candidates and advocacy groups to get their message in front of consumers who are searching for relevant information.”

However, buying of the search string in will have limited advantages. One, the first link the search offers will be BP-sponsored, but it will also say it is a sponsored-link, equivalent of an online advertisement. Apart from this link, the rest of the links that follow would be exactly as they are had BP not bought this search string. This means the information access to third parties outside the company or US government will be unfiltered and untampered.

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