Monday, March 05, 2007

The Advertising Battleground of the Future

This weekend I spent some time looking for Iraqi reconstruction videos on YouTube. I couldn't find anything worthwhile. Spirit of America had some, but they need some work. I wrote an open letter to CENTCOM about and followed it up with another post. This morning, I got a real brain wave and searched on "Halliburton" knowing ahead of time what I would find.

Reams and reams of videos blasting Halliburton. If you believe all of the videos, they're poisoning our troops, stealing millions of dollars and, for all I know, devouring live kittens. I didn't have the stomach to wade through more than a few pages of search results.

They're just a business. Among other things, they've found a niche in construction projects in dangerous places. They've got a great competitive edge because they hire lots of ex-military folks who know how to handle themselves in bad places. They can charge a lot because there isn't much competition. The threat of death turns out to be a high barrier to entry.

And no, I don't want to receive endless screeds about how they hired the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for board members.

My point is, organizations need to be aware of what is out there on the web about them. In any PR campaign, you can't let someone else define you. If lies come out, you need to respond immediately. CENTCOM and Halliburton are still living in the Judy Woodruff world of information distribution. They think they can go on Sunday talk shows, do interviews with magazine journalists or put ads in the local newspaper and counteract all of the bad press. That just isn't true any more.

The top Halliburton video, a trailer for a film called "The War Profiteers" had more than 224,000 hits. How many people will read a one or two sentence quote from the Halliburton exec on page A-13?

Halliburton will make money no matter how many video tantrums people post. The job they do needs to be done and there just isn't anyone else to do it. That having been said, I don't think it's a good idea for a company to allow their reputation to be smeared endlessly without response.

Ford, on the other hand, gets great YouTube play. If you remove the political videos dealing with Harold Ford, Jr., you get things like this.

Totally cool. 68,000+ hits and favorited 314 times. I love it. I want one.

How about your organization? What do they look like on the web?


Anonymous said...

Excellent post, KT. These companies obviously have to become more aware of their online presence -- not just the one they create, but the "user generated" one that is created for them.

Though, in my opinion, Halliburton doesn't seem to care much about their image. And, really, they don't have to -- since what the average person thinks doesn't really affect their bottom line. (When the last time the average person bought a tank?)

Still, other companies must take control of their online presence -- as much as they can. They just have to avoid being obvious about it.

- Tessa

K T Cat said...


Thanks for the insightful comment. Halliburton is a strange beast. If you look at their website, you'd never know they were in Iraq. They make all kinds of really ingenious tools for oil drilling, like massive bits for grinding through very hard rock.

My bet is that they've given up on the PR war. They figure they're going to be used as a bludgeon to beat up President Bush and they don't want to spend the resources to fight it.

I agree that most people don't need hard rock oil drilling bits, but I would want my company to have a good image if for no other reason than to attract top employment prospects.