Saatchi Drops Out of PG&E Review

Remaining Shops Said To Be Worried About Client’s Focus On PR
SAN FRANCISCO–Pacific Gas & Electric’s review of its estimated $7-10 million ad account has left some of the contending agencies frustrated with what they say is a “lack of clarity” about the business, especially with regard to the balance between advertising and public relations duties, according to sources.
Worrying some agencies is the growing speculation that PG&E plans to spend most of its 1999 ad dollars on public relations and other activities such as community action programs, rather than on advertising as in the past. The shops fear they will be playing second fiddle on the account to their public relations partners, sources said.
One team–Saatchi & Saatchi, San Francisco, and public relations firm Edelman Worldwide–pulled out of the review last week.
“PG&E wasn’t a good match for us,” said agency general manager Julie Bauer. The heavy focus on public relations was a factor in its decision, she said, since Saatchi didn’t have a PR firm within its network and had to partner with an outside firm.
“The [contenders] should not be surprised there are public relations elements to the review,” said Leonard Anderson, a representative for the San Francisco client. “It’s been like that from the outset. We’re looking for an integrated external support team with advertising and public relations expertise that has capabilities of [reaching] the diverse population of California.”
The other Bay Area teams are J. Walter Thompson and Hill & Knowlton; Young & Rubicam and Cohn & Wolfe; and incumbent McCann-Erickson and partner Golin/Harris Communications.
Sources said the review, run by Lee Anne Morgan of New York consultancy Lee Anne Morgan & Partners, was confusing from the outset.
“The briefing was very strange because all of the contenders were gathered into one room,” said one source. “Afterward, PG&E held a cocktail party, which was very uncomfortable and weird.”
Morgan could not be reached for comment by press time.
A decision is expected by early March, sources said.