Financier George Soros became famous for breaking the Bank of England. You can do the same thing right now to BP and help clean oil-covered birds in the process.
Soros’s gambit took place on September 16, 1992. At that time there was a huge spread between British and German interest rates which ought to have forced down the value of the pound sterling. But the Bank of England was determined to defend fixed exchange rates. The head of the Bank said he would spend up to $15 billion buying pounds to accomplish this. Soros saw this as the bank metaphorically spitting into the wind. So he took the bank up on its threat, selling short $10 billion worth of British pounds, which proved more stress than the Bank was willing to endure. When the Bank that day stopped buying, the value of the pound crashed and Soros was able to cover his short positions (buy back at a lower price the pounds he had previously sold) making a $1.1 billion profit on the deal.
Not a bad day’s work.
Jump now to BP. According to news accounts everywhere, BP is right now trying to influence public discussion of its wild well spewing oil in the Gulf of Mexico by purchasing Google AdWords like “oil spill, ” for which the multinational oil company was recently paying Google $1.48, according to NPR. Web sites about the accident, news from the region, environmental or energy policy, or about oiled-up sea birds should notice BP ads appearing on their pages.
BP pays Google AdWords and Google AdSense, in turn, pays a discounted sum to the owner of the web page on which the ad is displayed — but only if a reader actually clicks on the ad.
BP isn’t the first outfit in trouble to try managing its PR through AdWords. Former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay did it first back in 2005.
BP is reportedly spending upwards of $10,000 per day on Google AdWords.
Why shouldn’t some of that money go to you?
Say you have a web page promoting your volunteer operation cleaning oil from wild birds in the Gulf of Mexico. Your site participates in Google AdSense and your content, naturally, is about oil spills and environmental damage. Then a BP ad is more than likely going to be right now at the top of the ads on your page. What you need to do to make this process punitive — make it hurt BP — is to change the system by finding a way to get more people to click on that BP ad.
I say ask them.
Here’s the copy I’d put in a bold font on my web page: “See that Google ad from BP, there on the right? If you click on that ad up to $0.88 of BP’s money will go to help clean oil-soaked birds in the Gulf. Go ahead, click the ad. It costs you nothing.”
This is not click fraud. Real Internet users interested in real environmental issues would be clicking. BP would be accomplishing its goal and should be happy. Except of course the click-through percentage under this scenario would soar, costing BP a lot more money than the company expects to spend.
Like the Bank of England in 1992, the question is not whether BP would eventually give up its policy but how much pain they are willing to endure before giving up. There’s always a chance that BP has an unlimited budget for this stuff and won’t even notice until a few million dollars are drained and a few thousand birds are saved. And unlike Soros, this arbitrage requires no money other than BP’s.
For those willing to take some risk there is a second approach to this scenario that might well involve click fraud. That would be to augment normal clicks with Robin Hood clicks (take from the rich and give to the poor clicks) generated by CloudCrowd or Amazon Mechanical Turk virtual workers. Paying these services a couple cents per click in order to make 88 cents would be a no-brainer and one heck of a business for the few minutes or days until BP runs out of mad money. That is if it can pass a Google click fraud audit.
Please let me know what happens if you try.