Darryl Willis wears polo shirts and always says the right things: His father was in the oil business. He has cousins who fish. His mom lost her home to Hurricane Katrina. In addition to the TV ads, he is featured in newspaper ads and has made the rounds on television news shows.
Detractors say he is a shill for the company, that he is allowing himself to be used so for the benefit of BP. Supporters say Willis is sincere and authentic and that the company is tapping into a great asset who is both reassuring and effective. African Americans on the web seem to be split between those who are wary and mistrust the intentions of BP to those who are proud to see a Black man with all of that responsibility.
BP has a long way to go. The effects of this spill will linger for many years. It is not certain that BP will even stay out of bankruptcy court, much less see the cleanup through until the end.
Having found a spokesperson who can connect with the people -- whether you believe it was fate or fabrication -- has helped to keep BP in the game. In the end however, marketing, advertising and public relations will not save them; that will take years of responsible decisions carried out flawlessly.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Larry D. Woodard is president and CEO of Graham Stanley Advertising, a full-service advertising agency based in New York City. He is also chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies New York Council and the recipient of many prestigious industry awards, including two O'Toole Awards for Agency of the Year, the London International Award, Gold Effie, Telly, Mobius, Addy's and the Cannes Gold Lion. A blogger and a frequent public speaker, Woodard enjoys discussing the intersection of media, politics, entertainment and technology.