The PR machine at BP has picked up on a recent trend, which utilizes the Google AdWords service as a soapbox from which to launch a damage-control blitz.
Same link? Me too.
Google AdWords is the moneymaking machine behind the world’s most popular search engine. This product selectively displays advertisements alongside search results, allowing advertisers to market to users already interested in specific terms. AdWords launched in 2000, and has since become more than just another billboard. By associating text advertisements with search terms, AdWords clients are able to deliver increasingly sophisticated messages to intended audiences—as BP is demonstrating right now. Never before has a campaign had this potential to target its message with such speed and precision–though that potential comes with a price tag, one that is subject to open bidding. In addition to advertising themselves in a more traditional sense, Google AdWords now empowers wealthy companies to command eyeballs searching for select keywords toward editorial content.
In September 2009, AdWords became a platform for PR damage control when the front page of the New York Times reported that New Zealand fisheries were overharvesting the hoki, a species known to most palates as the McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish. In response to this article, the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council bought up Google AdWords like new zealand hoki, hoki new york times, and William Broad (the author of the article). These search terms triggered links to a page refuting the Times’ accusations, and included emails from the Times science editor as well. Jim McCarthy of PR firm Counterpoint Strategies, who spearheaded this spin technique, has applied a similar strategy on behalf of the National Fisheries Institute and the Formaldehyde Council, in reaction to journalists’ criticism of these organizations. He seems to have started a trend by representing his clients with Google AdWords and links.