Is the question I’m asking myself after reading this article on ABC News. It concerns everyone’s favorite oil company, BP, buying search terms on Google and Yahoo to ensure that their links on the oil spill are at the “top” of each search engine’s page. I’m sure this is getting all the do-gooders of the world up in arms. Witness, the last page of the article
Despite the criticism, Kevin Ryan, the CEO of California-based Motivity Marketing, says that BP’s fierce PR campaign is smart.
“The search terms, everything, it’s probably not a bad idea for the company to do,” he said. “Is it right? Is buying these terms ethical? That’s another question.”
But we here at SoT (our new, unofficial, super-cool acronym) are smarter than that. We know that there is no ethical dilemma. A private company is selling another private company a service, in the form of advertising. They (BP) are not trying to deceive anyone with the content of these links. They aren’t linking to some site that says “there is no oil spill” or “Exxon did it”. And it’s perfectly clear to any rational, semi-intelligent human being that these links are a form of advertising, separate from the seemingly unbiased (*cough* subject for another post *cough*) links that Google and Yahoo present. Right?
According to Kevin Ryan….research shows that most people can’t tell the difference between a paid result pages, like the ones BP have, and actual news pages.