BP's Corporate Image Moves: Pro and Con

BP is trying to defend its corporate image with a major ad campaign after causing the largest oil spill in US history. The campaign includes a TV commercial featuring BP CEO Tony Hayward apologizing for the environmental disaster and explaining to viewers what the company is doing to repair the damage. The campaign has been met with mostly criticism. But there are defenders.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean at Yale School of Management, is among the campaign’s critics. He told CNBC BP should focus on fixing the problem first, before it tries to fix its own image.

“Their money is supposed to go to the states, the injured industries – the fishing and recreational industries. That money hasn’t gone out. Instead [they’re] spending the money on spin,” said Sonnenfeld.

Sonnenfeld said CEO Hayward should be replaced, saying his credibility has been lost and he is a “regular gaffe machine.”


On the other hand John Hofmeister, the former president and CEO of US operations for Shell and a consultant to BP, told CNBC he believes Hayward has done a “credible job” in terms of dealing with the oil spill but said the CEO should focus his priorities away from the ad campaign.

“I think the real test of Tony Hayward is what he does in terms of restoring the investor credibility [and] stakeholder credibility over time,” he added. “…He's got to figure out what to do with the portfolio to pay for this cleanup, and I think he doesn't help himself by being in front of the camera.”

Hofmeister recommended leaving the spotlight to Bob Dudley, BP’s managing director.

“I think they have had too many voices in the mix,” Hofmeister added, “and frankly I think Tony Hayward stayed too long in the U.S.”