What’s the cost of fixing BP’s image?

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BP tripled its spending on corporate advertising after its devastating crude oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico in April, paying more than $93.4 million for a massive public relations blitz, according to the chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“BP’s increased spending was almost entirely targeted at national and local newspapers and magazines and national and local television advertising,” Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, said in a letter summarizing BP’s response to lawmakers’ request for advertising information.

During a four-month period of April through July, BP spent $93.4 million on advertising in 17 states, Waxman said. “BP told the committee that they have increased advertising expenditures for a number of reasons, including to keep Gulf Coast residents informed of issues relating to the oil spill and recovery and to ensure transparency during the recovery process,” he said.

That amount was three times what the oil giant spent in April through July 2009, when its ads appeared in just two states and the District of Columbia, according to the lawmaker.

BP spent an additional $89.5 million to boost tourism in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana after the oil platform explosion. Some of the funds may have been used for advertising by each state or its tourism agency, Waxman said.

Waxman demanded BP’s ad spending information at the suggestion of fellow Democrat Kathy Castor, who represents Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast. In July, Castor criticized BP for what she described as its “extravagant corporate image advertising campaign.”

According to Thad Allen, the commander of the U.S.-BP spill response team, between 53,000 and 60,000 barrels of day leaked into the Gulf of Mexico after the April 20 explosion that led to the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig and late July, when the well was capped.

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