In 2000 British Petroleum launched a high-profile, $200 million public relations ad campaign designed by Ogilvy & Mather to position the company as environmentally-friendly. The company introduced a new slogan, "Beyond Petroleum," and changed its 70 year-old logo to a new, cheerful green and yellow sunburst. To many, the "Beyond Petroleum" campaign has always been a bit of a joke. After all, not only did it pitch BP's smallest energy sector while ignoring its major one, but BP's investment in extractive oil operations dwarfed its investment in renewable energy. BP spent a mere $45 million in 1999 to buy a solar energy company called Solarex -- a microscopic acquisition compared to the $26.5 billion it invested to buy ARCO to expand its oil drilling portfolio. BP is also the company behind the environmentally controversial (and some would say disastrous) oil sands project in Alberta. Now, in the wake of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP's greenwashing campaign looks even less slick. The company's hypocrisy and greenwashing have risen to the surface, and are spreading uncontrollably.
The public relations company who mans the helm on the PR recovery will have an almost more difficult job than capping the out of control oil in the Gulf.