I was listening to an analysis of BP's rising problems of anti-British antagonism in the US over the oil spill yesterday, and couldn't believe what I heard.
In hindsight, said a commentator, putting (British) chief executive Tony Hayward in the US media was a mistake. They would have been better to have used an American executive to be the voice of BP. There were lessons to learn.
This is a terrible excuse. It's a bit like saying after spending millions developing a perpetual motion machine, 'We should have learned the lessons of thermodynamics.' It's not news, guys, it's basic stuff. You should have known already.
Have these people never watched an American movie? Generally speaking, if a man has a British accent, he's a baddy. (Women are allowed to have British accents and not be bad - this is apparently less threatening.) US culture hammers home time and again that you can't trust the British guy. Even the way they speak isn't right - their use of English is, like, unamerican!
So what do BP do? Put Tony Hayward up there. The moment I heard him speaking, without at all listening to what he was saying, I thought 'This is a mistake. They should have used an American.' There's no excuse, it was cultural incompetence, pure and simple. We've had multinationals long enough that we should have learned the lesson by now. HSBC even uses the need for global companies to understand local mores in their TV ads.
I can only assume BP executives spend much too much time at the opera and not enough in the cinema.