President Obama reported this week that BP has initiated $50 million dollars in advertising. The Whitehouse and the President have been all over this move, rightly criticizing the company for spending money on attorneys and commercials rather than putting the money elsewhere.
While the media has jumped on the bandwagon, they’ve been mocking BP’s Tony Hayward for being a part of every commercial, interview and public relations event on television, in print and online. BP has even launched a YouTube channel specific to the crisis, starring none other than Tony Hayward.
Tony Hayward has already made some huge gaffs – including stating that he just wanted to get his life back – wording that pierced the very hearts of those 11 rig workers that were lost in original fire. Some people are calling for Tony Hayward to get fired, some are even calling for the government to take over the company.
Why would Tony Hayward continue to be the face of BP?
It’s quite simple from a public relations perspective. BP is gambling on Tony Hayward to be the fall guy for the brand and the company. For the next year or more, we’re going to see a lot of Tony Hayward. He’s not going anywhere (unless this ploy makes the headlines). BP will surely rebrand after the crisis – but between now and then, every commercial with Hayward with it, every interview with Hayward, every ludicrous sound bit with Hayward and every advertisement with Hayward puts distance between the stockholders, the company, and its current CEO.
At the end of the day, Tony Hayward will be paid handsomely for being the BP martyr. Mark my words that the platinum parachute that’s being developed right now will make the corporate hall of shame. Stockholders will gladly pay it, though, since Hayward’s martyrdom could insulate some of the losses when this crisis is over. The new CEO will come in, badmouth the old, reposition the company, and begin sucking billions out of the ground again.
The problem is that there’s a long line of culture and management in BP that has led to this disaster. Witnesses have already stated that BP management on the oil rig were not only aware of the safety issues, they argued with Transocean (owners of the Deepwater Horizon) prior to the explosion. The goal was to get the oil out as quickly as possible to get those dollars flowing… regardless of safety. Tony Hayward may be at the top of that chain, but there’s many more within the organization that are responsible.
If it weren’t so disgusting, it would be a brilliant public relations move. BP will return to profitability (or be bought by another oil company), Hayward will retire wealthier than he ever imagined, the President will not get re-elected, and the people of the gulf which are dependent on its natural resources will never recover in their lifetime.
BP Logo is an entry from the BP Logo Design contest from Logo My Way.