Besides a stealth TV "tourism" campaign, the oil giant is giving its local agents a blank check to "diffuse or deflect negative commentary" about the Deepwater Horizon spill.
"The beaches are clean! The seafood is fresh! And the national parks are open!" gushes a pleasant female voice, as the television commercial displays a sunbather, a trawler and huge pile of yumm-along the beautiful Gulf Coast!"
"Government agencies and local municipalities are working around the clock to protect the region's economy and ecology. And we'll continue working as long as it takes...," the announcer continues before the logos for the tourism boards of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi fly up on the screen.
One logo that wasn't anywhere near the commercial: British Petroleum's. Which is odd, because BP quietly paid to produce the ad, and will spend $70 million airing it and other commercials to lure tourists to the Gulf Coast. Though his company isn't mentioned, the message mirrors exactly what BP CEO Tony Hayward has been saying in public statements: that the oil spill is contained and the Gulf Coast region can return to normal-just ignore the millions of gallons of crude oil looming over the horizon.
It's one piece of an enormous, largely stealth PR campaign that BP has been waging over the past few weeks, according to sources across the Gulf, as the enormity of the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster sinks in.
The ground operatives in this propaganda blitz: locally-owned or affiliated companies - mostly those that either supply or own the BP stations. Specifically, while BP has commandeered the state's tourism marketing, the oil giant wants it local marketers to buy ads, distribute flyers at their stations, hold customer appreciation days and use BP-supplied talking points to build a word-of-mouth campaign to "diffuse or deflect negative commentary" about the BP oil spill, according sources inside the oil industry.