Alabama Power Begins Review

Utility Will Consider Southeast, Texas Shops for $5 Mil. Account
ATLANTA–The Alabama Power Company is the latest electric utility to launch a review in the wake of the industry deregulation.
The company confirmed last week that it has sent out roughly two dozen requests for information to agencies in the Southeast and Texas.
Alabama Power said its annual advertising account is worth $5 million. Competitive Media Reporting cites 1999 ad expenditures at $2.2 million; $570,000 for the first four months of 2000.
“The electric utility industry is changing rapidly and we now have to operate in a far more competitive environment,” said Mary Story, client manager of external communications. “We have to make sure our advertising is as effective and cost-efficient as possible. The best way to do that is to conduct periodic reviews of the agencies available to serve us and our customers.”
For the past six years, Alabama Power, based in Birmingham, has worked with Shepardson, Stern + Kaminsky for creative. The New York agency will not defend its account.
“We’re looking more regionally this time, but we are looking both inside and outside Birmingham,” Story said. “From Virginia to Texas to Miami is the triangle as we define it right now.”
Luckie & Co. of Birmingham, which has handled media buying and planning since 1996, has been invited to pitch creative, Story said.
Story said any shop inside the defined geographic area that did not get an invitation can request one.
She said there would be a three-step process before a winner is chosen. Questionnaires are due back by Aug. 16. Respondents will be cut to six to eight semifinalists, followed by onsite visits by the client. After a further cut to three or four shops, there will be full-blown pitches, followed by a decision in late October.
Luckie has done creative projects for Alabama Power in the past. It delivered a trio of 15-second broadcast spots for the client’s “Project Share” campaign last winter, inviting donations to help pay the utility bills of the state’s low-income elderly or disabled.
Shepardson’s current campaign positions Alabama Power as a friend of the environment.
One likely favorite will not be able to pursue the business. Atlanta’s Fitzgerald & Co., which has considerable experience in the category, counts the Tennessee Valley Authority as a client.
Alabama Power is a division of The Southern Company, which is based in Atlanta.