Friday, November 30, 2007

The Man in the Street

Unless you are one of those people who has made a conscious decision to abstain from television, you have seen more than you want to of those "man in the street" commercials from British Petroleum (BP), where earnest men and women offer sixty seconds of commentary on bio fuels, solar power, or energy conservation.

These ads are expensive, but I am not concerned that someone at BP thinks it is a swell idea to spend millions of shareholder dollars to broadcast randomly collected snippets of energy policy from people who may have little or no energy industry experience. After all, CSPAN found a reason to exist by broadcasting what the people in Congress say, and it is hard to imagine a larger group of people who are ready to pontificate about everything.

No, it is not the possible waste of money that concerns me about BP's commercials. What worries me is the thought that someone at the company might actually take these ideas seriously. That would be like a surgeon walking up to a random person on the street and asking, "What do you think we should do about Mr. Jones' tumor?" Not exactly the best way to gather informed opinion, don't you agree?

If BP hopes its "man in the street" commercials will buy it some good PR before its next PR nightmare, good luck. If BP thinks its commercials will sell more stuff and make more money, good luck. But if BP actually tries to run one of the world's largest energy companies on the basis of what the "man in the street" thinks it should do, God help us.

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