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Utility Names 8 Semifinalists

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Alabama Power has eight semifinalists scattered throughout the Southeast for the$5 million review it launched in the wake of industry deregulation.

"We have a nice mixture of shops in size and location," said Mary Story, external communications manager at the utility in Birmingham, Ala.

One hometown contender, Luckie & Co., which currently handles media for Alabama Power, is in the mix. Six-year creative incumbent Shepardson, Stern + Kaminsky in New York will not participate.

The seven other agencies are: Fahlgren in Tampa, Fla.; Harris Drury Cohen, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; The Hauser Group, Savannah, Ga.; Long Haymes Carr, Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Austin Kelley, Fitzgerald & Co. and J. Walter Thompson, all Atlanta.

"The thing we were particularly looking for were agencies that had a bunch of retail as well as branding experience. We need somebody who can do both," Story said.

"We also were looking at their mix of other clients, whether they had experience that would translate well for us," she continued. "The depth, longevity and stability of their staff played a part. And their reels played a part, of course."

Story said the review was running about a week behind schedule, but that Alabama Power expected to name a new agency by early to mid-November.

She said the client is currently visiting the eight agencies. The short list will be cut to three or four shops by the second week of October. These contenders will be given a strategic and creative tasks and a three-week deadline, leading to the November decision.

Luckie and Fitzgerald are the likely early favorites. The local agency is the media incumbent and has done creative projects for the client. Fitzgerald has considerable category experience and a solid track record in breaking industry deregulation campaigns.

Alabama Power is a division of The Southern Company, which is based in Atlanta.