One Of The “Beyond Petroleum” Campaign Authors Speaks

Jeroen Bours is the CEO at Darling Agency in New York. But in a past life, he was an ECD at Ogilvy and one of the creators of BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” campaign.
He made a comment on today’s Talent Zoo article, “How BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” Branding Strategy Became an Epic Failure”:

As one of the co-authors on the launch of the ‘beyond petroleum’ campaign (at Ogilvy at the time), I fully agree that BP could have handled this awful disaster differently. And I still think they can repair their benign attitude towards the public. But I hope that the cause of their communication faults are because they’re 100% focused on fixing the problem first. Let’s just hope they can actually stop the oil from pouring into the sea. Let’s hope they’re in contact with every university and every engineer who might be able to help. That said, the actual meaning of the words: ‘beyond petroleum’ mean more under these circumstances than ever before. Think about it this way; is there anymore proof, however sad, that we need to stop oil activities like these that proof to be uncontrollable? Is there anymore doubt to look ‘beyond petroleum’? BP should take their own mantra more serious than ever before.

The problem now, of course, is that few people would be inclined to believe anything BP says anymore; the actions are speaking louder, and if you believe what’s being reported the actions (both in stopping the spill and PR spin) are inadequate. A mantra, for them, is worthless. I’d be curious to know more about the mindset of the folks like Bours during the gestation of a large corporate re-branding campaign. We want to believe that our clients have good intentions, but how much do we question them?
There’s no doubt Ogilvy’s campaign was successful, ultimately, however, it wasn’t rooted in genuine corporate belief. It was part of modern corporate imagemaking, as I stated 3 weeks ago:

Those grandiose, aspirational statements you see corporations spew across the “about us” page of their Web site or in a 60-second image spot don’t come from the CEO, the officers, or the Board of Directors — they come from ad agencies, branding firms, and marketing consultants. That’s why corporations rarely live up to those statements.

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About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.

  • http://www.BrandTalkAsia.com Joe Baladi

    Hi Dan
    First of all I am inclined to agree with you. It certainly seems that the “beyond petroleum” campaign originated not from inside the company, but rather from outside as an idea that was presented to bp which they then liked and then decided to adopt. Beyond the revealing New York Times 2006 piece by John Kenney (Ogilvy co-writer of the campaign) do you know of any other documented evidence anywhere that confirms that the idea was not BP’s?