NEW YORK (CBS) On May 19th, a Twitter account launched called @bpglobalpr. An instant Internet sensation, it went from unknown to over 100,000 followers in a little over a week. Gaining attention with its Daily Show-esque brand of snark, with tweets like--"Try our cap operation at home! Hold a funnel over a fire hose, sell what you catch and proclaim victory! #bpwins"--the account has quickly amassed a sizable Twitter following.
Written in the voice of an unnamed BP PR representative, it skewers the company's fumbled response to the environmental tragedy. The account has also introduced the world to @BPTerry, a grossly incompetent PR flack for BP (more on Terry below).
"Leroy Stick", a pseudonym for the voice behind the account recently explained his raison d'etre in an online confession:
"The point of this story is that if someone is terrorizing your neighborhood, sometimes it's alright to grab a stick and take a swing. Social media, and in this particular case Twitter, has given average people like me the ability to use and invent all sorts of brand new sticks. "
I got in touch with "Leroy Stick" through email. He would not reveal his real name and referred me to his PR rep, "Terry". Terry allowed me to interview him via Skype video chat under conditions of anonymity. Watch my interview above with the self-titled "marketing mastermind" behind the initiative.
"Terry" would not get out of character throughout the interview, but he did share these insights behind the account:
"They say some of the best humor is based on real life... but in terms of how humor has worked, we're just a bunch of guys with a grab ass room playing X-Box. I guess it's got us towards being really popular. We're honestly just trying our best to get this thing over with so we can forget about it and move on, so we can retire a little early."
"The big plan here, there are a lot of people are saying, look at this oil spill, look at what's happened to the gulf, look at all the oil in there. They're saying maybe if we can't clean this mess up ourselves, if BP isn't capable of cleaning up after themselves when an offshore operation goes haywire, maybe they shouldn't be allowed to do it. Maybe it's time for clean renewable energy. And I say no thank you to that. We need that to stop in its tracks. We need to keep drilling in the gulf, build some more rigs, suck that thing dry, sell that oil, get it into those gas cans, burn it up, get it into the air and that's when we make our money. Then we'll go to the moon and try to get more or something..."
While all sides of the political spectrum having reacted to this cultural work with differing opinions, there is no denying its significance in how social media has shifted the ability for companies, brands, or even governments to control the public conversation through traditional media messages and means.
There have even been unsubstantiated reports that BP has asked Twitter to actually shut down the account. Rumor or not, @bpglobalpr is an interesting use of how new technology can be a powerful voice and even an outlet for the discontent and anger towards this situation.