Martin to Push Benefits of Oil Heat

The group promoting oil heat, a shrinking choice for consumers, hopes The Martin Agency can strike the right tone to push not only the cleanliness and efficiency of oil heat, but its availability in uncertain times.

The National Oilheat Research Alliance, a group of 8,000 oil-heat distributors, last week awarded its $10 million account to the Richmond, Va., shop following a review. Incumbent Fallon, New York, did not take part.

NORA is faced with convincing homeowners and builders that oil is as clean and economical as gas heat. Usage is declining—a million homes switched from oil to another heat source from 1990-2000, according to U.S. census figures.

A looming war in the Middle East will also influence the approach, said shop president John Adams. “What we’ve talked to [the client] about relating to that is style and tone and timing,” he said. “The question was, in an environment where oil is a central element or subtext of a big international series of events, is it appropriate or not to do advertising that is humorous?”

In Fallon’s 2002 work, consumers wore bubble suits to keep warm. Studies showed that the work helped boost the public’s impression that oil heat is clean, but did not necessarily lead to equipment upgrades and sales, said NORA president John Huber.

“There’s a balance between who we are as companies and good creative,” Huber said. “I don’t think [Fallon] found that balance.”

“Martin bridges the gap in many respects,” said industry consultant Roy Patterson. “They can be very traditional, and that will help serve the conservative-type memberships. At the same time, they can do very creative stuff.”

Print, outdoor, TV and radio is set to launch in April.