Spirit Airlines, New Orleans make light of BP crisis

Playing off an anxiety-provoking crisis is a tricky act for a marketer to carry off. Last week we spotlighted how the U.K.’s Nectar is managing this in the wake of the country’s austerity measures, and we looked at how Dawn detergent may see a boost from the BP spill (messaging spotlights how it’s used to clean oil from wildlife). Now two marketers have come under fire for making light of BP’s tainted image.

The effort from Spirit Airlines, a discount carrier that has run cheeky promotions in the past, is insensitive but deliberately so. To promote discounts to Spirit’s coastal destinations, the airline’s home page showed a series of tan, oil-marinated bikini-clad women with copy urging travelers: “Check out the oil on our beaches.” Their sunscreen? A green and yellow bottle of “Best Protection.” Not surprisingly, the reaction has been negative, with people calling the campaign “tasteless” and “offensive.”

new-orleansMeanwhile, a New Orleans tourism campaign attempted to use anti-BP humor to allay tourist fears about the nearing Gulf spill. TV and print ads used the slogan “This isn’t the first time New Orleans survived the British” with an image of the French Quarter statue of Andrew Jackson, which marks his Battle of New Orleans victory over the British during the War of 1812. BP itself had supplied the funds for the $5 million campaign, part of a larger donation to the state of Louisiana.

“We thought, with all the grief, we would try to turn things a bit lighter and more tongue in cheek,” the president of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau explained to The Telegraph. But the ad was pulled after The Guardian noted that BP had in effect funded the “anti-British” campaign. Again we see BP making an effort, but no one seems willing to take it seriously, even a recipient of its funds. It’s too bad the slogan was retired—it might be the only amusing (and hopeful) message to emerge from the entire mess thus far.

Photo Credit: David Paul Ohmer

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