BP buys Google ‘oil spill’ keywords- a slick PR stunt?


British Petroleum (BP) has purchased Google and Yahoo search terms in order to influence consumers’ views on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Matthew Whiteway at Greenlight, takes a closer look at BP’s latest attempt at damage limitation as the slick spreads…

BP is clearly trying to protect its brand image following the catastrophe of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, turning to paid search in an attempt to present a more compassionate image. With the company buying top position in paid search, it hopes to drive users to its corporate response page which attempts to paint a more positive picture of the BP brand.

Excluding the paid search listing in the results page, 95% of the listings are very negative. A search in Google for “BP Oil Spill” presents the user with a number of listings that are being very cynical of BP, including YouTube clips of the impact the disaster has had on the local area and its wildlife.


Today, internet users expect to get up to the minute reports on world events and the recent oil spill is no different. People now turn to search engines to find out information, read reports, and watch videos on latest events. Recent search trends for terms such as “oil spill” show the level of interest in the events in the Gulf of Mexico.

Whilst some would argue that BP is trying to deflect attention away from damage the oil spill has caused, others will agree BP is just giving internet users the information they are looking for; after all, users are not forced to click on the paid search advert.

Paid search is the quickest way to see tangible results in online marketing. From a search perspective, this is the best move BP could have made to protect its image under the current circumstances.

Matthew Whiteway is Director of Campaign Management at Greenlight. With over 8 year’s online experience, Matthew has a wealth of knowledge and strategic knowhow. His experience stems from previous roles at Yell.com and 192.com where he was responsible for the online marketing efforts of a number of blue-chip clients.

Matthew also delivers PPC training to Greenlight’s clients and supportshis account teams from a strategic and development perspective.

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