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The explosion on the BP Horizon Oil Rig might have cost BP millions and the environment even more, but the spill has also dented their public image. Less than a month after the spill, an anonymous tweeter created @BPGlobalPR, a fictitious BP public relations (PR) Twitter account that has swept across the web, securing more than 138 000 followers.
According to retweetrank, the account is now sitting in the 99.98th percentile for retweets. One can see why with recent tweets such as this:
“Try our cap operation at home! Hold a funnel over a firehose, sell what you catch and proclaim victory! #bpwins”
The anonymous tweeter who entertained many with his humorous ‘PR’ tweets was initially outed by Wired magazine writer Mat Honan as Mike Monteiro (@mike_ftw), co-founder of and design director at Mule Design. Monteiro was also reportedly offered a book deal.
Since Honan’s “outing”, Monteiro has denied any involvement on his own Twitter account, and CNET reported that Honan, who seemed to out Mike Monteiro as the author of @BPGlobalPR, was in fact making a practical joke himself.
CNET’s original correction on the story implied that the joke was about the book deal, but not about the authorship of the account itself. According to CNET, Honan then explicitly stated that the whole thing was in fact “a joke”.
CNET also reported that Monteiro denied it, then admitted to the have authored BPGlobalPR, and then denied it again. According to CNET both Honan and Monteiro are known Twitter jokesters.
So who is the mastermind, and has this been just another “brandjacker” who took a chance at making a profit out of the disaster? Or has there been some activism in the satirical tweets?
A quick Google search reveals that many did think @BPGlobalPR was the real thing, so a little brandjacking might have been involved.
The Daily Maverick reported that the stunt could be the “brainchild” of possibly a group of people, and pointed out that the owner (or owners) of the account have only identified themselves as “Leroy Stick”.
Stick, whose true identity remains unknown, explained his reasons for staring the Twitter account in an interview with Advertising Age, and acknowledged that the account is a collaborative effort.
Says Stick: “I started @BPGlobalPR because I was frustrated and wanted to make jokes. Since then, I’ve basically adapted as it’s grown. I had no plans to sell shirts or go to New Orleans when I started this, but as the Twitter took off, both seemed like logical and productive moves.
One thing I didn’t really touch on in the press release is that this has been a collaborative effort. I have a group of hilarious writers pitching me hundreds of jokes a week. I still write a lot of them, but I’m also an editor in chief/gatekeeper.”
Stick goes on to say that: “I don’t think the @BPGlobalPR would have such a wide reach if I were doing all of this on my own. My dad actually wrote the joke about tuna coming pre-packaged in oil which made me very happy.”
It’s hard to tell whether this has been activism that turned into a global snowballing meme, or pure profiteering on the back of an environmental disaster.
In a statement released earlier to the media claiming responsibility, Stick made the following comments:
“You know the best way to get the public to respect your brand? Have a respectable brand. Offer a great, innovative product and make responsible, ethical business decisions. Lead the pack! Evolve! Don’t send hundreds of temp workers to the gulf to put on a show for the President. Hire those workers to actually work! Don’t dump toxic dispersant into the ocean just so the surface looks better.
“Collect the oil and get it out of the water! Don’t tell your employees that they can’t wear respirators while they work because it makes for a bad picture. Take a picture of those employees working safely to fix the problem. Lastly, don’t keep the press and the people trying to help you away from the disaster, open it up so people can see it and help fix it. This isn’t just your disaster, this is a human tragedy. Allow us to mourn so that we can stop being angry.”
These are some powerful words, and a solid defence for those at BP who are simply trying to write off @BPGlobalPR as a stunt that has taken the internet by storm and turned into a moneymaking scheme.
The true identity of the @BPGlobalPR author does, however, remain a mystery.
CORRECTION NOTE: The original article has been updated to clear up some factual inaccuracies, as eloquently pointed out by our readers and one of the subjects of the article, Mike Monteiro himself. Memeburn regrets the error.
- For the full interview with “Leroy Stick” on his reasons for starting BPGlobalPR, visit Advertising Age.