British Petroleum ad “Getting Better,” our environment getting worse

Curator's Note

Watching the British Petroleum animated ad “Getting Better” with its infectious pop song and bright, clean, webby look of limited animation (simple round shapes, bright limited pallet, flattened perspective), establishes a scene of euphoria at the BP station: BP’s eye of Sauron beams an array of refreshments, food, and toilet seats, gas pumps look like MP3 players, and gleeful weebl people fly above the car. BP has often distanced itself from an energy company (oil, gas and chemicals) with its Beyond Petroleum ads, but here it attempts to go even further beyond reality, suggesting trips to the gas station are an immensely fulfilling experience. The ad caused me to pay more attention to the local BP gas stations in my area, with their busted concrete lots, rusted pumps, weeds, and derelict huts for employees—not the experience of plenitude the ad suggests. BP has recently been navigating its way through public relations and real disasters in the US: an accident at an oil refinery in Texas killing 15 employees, oil spills in Southern California, and plans to dump thousands of pounds of toxic sludge into Lake Michigan (from an expanded oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana). Can BP wipe away its company history and its oil production clean with the white wash of new media pop aesthetics?


I also remember being struck by the disparity between what these ads portray and the typical gas station. I remember reading somewhere, Slate, I think, about how this was sort of a unique campaign to influence consumers to select a gas station based on the brand, rather than on location and price, which is of course how most people decide where to buy gas. But perhaps it really was more about creating warm fuzzies for the company in light of the disasters you mention. Hopefully, people are becoming aware enough of environmental issues not to be influenced by these kinds of campaigns, but maybe that's overly optimistic...

Thank you for your comment. I will look for the article you mention. Yes, branding, definitely, product differentiation, as well as public relations, and the offer of clean, modern fun facilities. I often miss the last one, the literal message, because I continue to be taken aback by all the disparities. BP is cleaning up an industry and its own image. Their logo (Saul Bass I think) also suggests organic wholeness, as they attempt to set themselves apart from the rest.

I spent a quarter with students working to make them aware of their brand identity/ies. It took until week 8 out of ten for someone to realize that gas was a branded "commodity." I think this add will be highly successful because it is obviously aimed at kids who will pester their parents for the pitstop of their choice. It also reminds me of South Park, so perhaps there is some hidden irony in there afterall..

8 weeks, wow. That's right, kids will not have any knowledge of the company's environmental record, BP will get the next generation of gas pumpers/pit stoppers. Yes, the animation is somewhat similar in appeal to South Park's, with maybe a lighter palette conveying more innocence and cleanliness.

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