I have never said this so early in a year before but … the worst marketing of the year competition has been decided. BP’s ongoing attempts to clean up its reputation as it fails to clean up the Gulf are so horrendous it is impossible for anyone else to catch up.
It is only fair to point out that BP has used a ringer, someone whose skills are so extraordinary that having him on the team is almost like cheating. I speak, of course, of soon-to-be-unemployed CEO Tony Hayward. Hayward is so astoundingly dangerous in front of a microphone that he makes Joe Biden and former GM CEO Rick Waggoner seem like the second coming of Ronald Reagan.
First there was the spectacularly stupid whine about wanting his life back. In one little phrase Hayward made it clear that he views this entire incident as an imposition on him and can’t quite remember that actual lives have been lost.
But wait, that’s not all! Today he replied to his critics thusly: "They’ve thrown some words at me, but I’m a Brit. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” OK everyone, put down the tar and feathers and go get some sticks and stones. If Mr. Hayward continues on in this manner his PR staff will likely be first in line to deliver the wood-and-rock therapy.
Speaking of BP’s PR staff … no one – not even John McCain – can win an award of this magnitude all by themselves. Mr. Hayward is being aided and abetted by a group of people whom I must assume are paid many millions of dollars a year and whom I wouldn’t let promote a church car wash. These are people like BP spokesman Randy Prescott: who said, “Louisiana isn’t the only place that has shrimp.”
But, let’s be honest, these are just individual gaffes from individual idiots. This is really an enterprise-wide award which takes enterprise-wide effort to take it up another level and execute some truly world-class stupidity. To wit a brief list:
- “BP is going to [spin] off its Gulf of Mexico spill operation to a separate in-house business to be run by an American in a bid to isolate the "toxic" side of the company and dilute some of the anti-British feeling aimed at chief executive Tony Hayward, the company said today.” Because it’s all about protecting Tony, that’s why.
- Decided to pay out $10 billion in dividends to stockholders while failing to pay people hired to clean up its mess.
- Consistently downplayed the amount of oil being spilled in an attempt to limit liability.
- Continues to spend millions of dollars on ads promising to fix the damage its done and emphasizing how much effort it is putting into stopping the catastrophe it created.
- Continues to try to block the press from the scene of the crime by banning flyovers and keeping reporters from beaches, a tactic that – like everything else they’ve done – just makes things worse.
Congrats to all those responsible at BP and God help us all.