B To The P

I must admit I have a weakness for BP’s Beyond Petroleum campaign. It’s great advertising. Which makes the following criticism all the more interesting.

Energy Bulletin: Time magazine became the most recent mainstream publication to finally give detailed coverage to Peak Oil. Its Oct. 31 twelve-page spread on “The Future of Energy” follows major articles in USA Today, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle and other big-city dailies in recent months. They finally mention the coming Peak Oil that geologists have been warning us about for years.
Time’s spread, in fact, includes two familiar full-page BP ads, where the former British Petroleum corporation has re-positioned itself as “Beyond Petroleum.” These ads reveal the interlock of today’s mainstream media profiting from its promotion of such corporations. By placing the ads next to its allegedly objective news stories, Time mixes advertising and news, which journalism students are taught should have a “firewall” between them.
One BP ad advocates that “It’s Time To Go on a Low-Carbon Diet.” This ad advances natural gas, solar, and hydrogen as the appropriate substitutes for oil. The other ad highlights the assertion that “Natural gas is the clean bridge to renewable energy,” noting that “Today natural gas accounts for about 40% of BP’s global production.” One could almost think that BP is earth-friendly, rather than profit-oriented.
Yet various authors concerned with energy decline have documented how the combined energy from the proposed replacements for today’s cheap oil will not provide nearly the abundant energy that petroleum offers.

So, are we to believe that BP is a good guy? One of us, constantly on the look out for a working alternative and a brighter future for all? Or must we see through their public face and count them as just another energy producer looking to extract whatever profit they can from whatever source is most available?

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. I don’t expect BP to be “working (for a) alternative and a brighter future for all” sans profit. BP apparently feels the future of their profits is in energy sources other than petrol/oil and decided to get a jump on market positioning. They also feel it is in their interest to help the market for non-petrol/oil along and their advertising reflects those dual aims.
    The brillant layer of the campaign is that it projects buying petrol today from BP isn’t as bad as as petrol from others, that buy doing so you are help move towards alternative energy futures. In some small way that may be true (petrol/oil profits are driving much of BP’s R&D).