BP accidentally captures protesters in its latest nationwide ad

When The Alabama Oil Spill Aftermath Coalition showed up to the 40th annual National Shrimp Festival with anti-BP protests and posters, they hoped to get a bit of local news media publicity.

Instead, they got a cameo in a national BP television ad.

BP launched its latest nationwide ad campaign Monday to explain the company’s post-spill efforts to restore the Gulf of Mexico. As BP’s Louisiana external affairs manager Iris Cross says that economies on the Gulf Coast are “having their best tourism season in years,” the camera pans the Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores, Ala. and lands on the Alabama Oil Spill protesters.

It’s easy to miss their two-second appearance (see 0:47-0:49). From the camera’s distant bird’s eye view, the cluster of people could just as easily be sunbathers. But organizer Michele Harmon confirms that the shadowy figures are her group, who demonstrated at the event on Oct. 16. The coalition’s website features a closer photo of the protest, with the same blue tarp and bright yellow sign that appear in the BP video.

Harmon said she noticed cameras panning the scene from the roof of a nearby restaurant.

“I, like the rest of the protesters, assumed they were media filming the crowds at the festival,” Harmon said in an email. “When they panned the cameras our way, we made sure they knew we were there, in hopes of getting media coverage.”

Harmon said the group’s objective was to raise concerns about seafood safety and protest BP’s sponsorship of local events. BP isn’t listed on the Shrimp Festival site as a sponsor.

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Simone is assistant editor for FuelFix.com. She's an award-winning journalist who has covered energy for the Houston Chronicle and education for the San Francisco Chronicle, among other major newspapers. You can follower her on Twitter, @SimonesNews. Contact her at 713-362-6145 or simone.sebastian@chron.com.