Internet Startup Launches Search




Decision Comes as Leading Competitor Prepares to Name First AOR
BOSTON–Add rivals Essential.com and TelEnergy to the growing list of e-commerce companies seeking agency assistance.
The Web-based resellers of utility and communications services plan to hire shops in short order for large-scale branding campaigns.
Essential.com in Burlington, Mass., intends to spend $6 million this year, but that figure will rise significantly in 2000, said Kelly Mahoney, senior vice president of marketing and e-business.
Mahoney, who recently joined Essential.com from the direct marketing unit of Arnold Communications here, has held preliminary talks with agencies in Boston, New York and Dallas about handling creative chores on the account, she said.
PGR Media in Providence, R.I., currently handles media duties and is expected to continue to do so after a creative shop is hired, she said.
TelEnergy of Newton, Mass., is in late-stage negotiations with an undisclosed Boston-area shop and hopes this week to name its first agency of record to handle creative and media chores, said Joe Ford, executive vice president of marketing and communications.
Ford declined to say how much TelEnergy, which was formed in 1995 and has 2,000 customers, plans to spend on ads. Essential.com declined to say how many customers have signed up.
Essential.com is seeking an agency partner “with an aggressive track record in consumer behavior change and [the ability to generate] quantitative results,” Mahoney said.
“Depth of branding expertise and some e-commerce experience”–as well as the ability to create a unified message across many media–are important, she said. The search, run by Mahoney without assistance from outside consultants, is in its early stages, and she is still open to agency submissions, she said.
Mahoney hopes to finalize a list of contenders next month, with a decision coming by August, she said.
At present, creative boutique Chili Pepper and online marketing shop One-to-One Interactive, both in Boston, are working on various assignments for Essential.com. Chili Pepper recently created newspaper ads using the headline, “Savings without the homework.”
Mahoney said the brand position “will evolve over time” based on ideas from the creative shop the company ultimately hires.
Both TelEnergy and Essential.com resell electricity and phone services through partnerships with various utility and telecommunications providers. They offer customers a single, consolidated bill for their utilities.