BP Taking Heat for Ad Spending After Oil Spill

BP has been forced to defend its advertising strategy, after a congressional committee investigating the Gulf of Mexico oil spill revealed that the company tripled its advertising budget in the months following the disaster. BP also increased the number of markets where it purchased newspaper advertising from just two states last year to 17 states.

According to the House Energy Committee, BP spent $93.4 million – about $5 million per week – on newspaper advertisements and TV spots between April and the end of July. The ad campaign targeted mostly national and local newspapers, magazines, and national and local television stations.

BP claims that the advertising campaign was needed to inform the public about clean-up efforts and the compensation claims process. A spokesperson for the company also told The Los Angeles Times that the $93.4 million spent on advertising was a relatively small portion of BP’s total expenditures of about $6.1 billion on the oil spill to date.

But not everyone is convinced that information dissemination was BP’s true objective. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who asked for the information on advertising, accused the company of spending the money to burnish its image.

“While BP’s advertising campaign ramped up, businesses and the gulf communities struggled to deal with the costs of the disaster,” Castor said. “While BP certainly has the right to advertise, its approach has been insensitive to the taxpayers and business owners harmed by the Deepwater Horizon blowout.”

Castor called on BP to divert “a significant portion of its advertising dollars” to help tourism-dependent small businesses.

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