Power Outage in Charlotte: Loeffler Pulls the Plug on Duke

By Jim Osterman

ATLANTA–Loeffler Ketchum Mountjoy last week resigned the Duke Power Co. account. The Charlotte, N.C., agency has held the business for the last seven years.

‘We were not being viewed as a strategic partner–we were becoming more of a vendor to them,’ agency chairman William Loeffler said. ‘We seemed to be getting direction from a lot of different people and so much of the work was short-term, quick turnaround. There was no long-term strategic planning.’

The account had billed, at its height, between $3-4 million. According to Loeffler, however, there was no established ad budget this year, with the work being parceled out on a series of projects.

According to Competitive Media Reporting, the client spent $2.2 million on its advertising in 1995.

‘Both companies are at a crossroads,’ Loeffler said. Duke is in the middle of a merger with Houston-based gas utility PanEnergy Corp., a deal expected to be completed by year’s end. The agency ‘had a lot of growth at the end of last year and had added some staff and (is) looking at adding more, and we had to assess where we wanted to put those people,’ Loeffler said.

‘This is a very transitional year for us and we’ve probably been a very demanding client,’ said Duke official Randy Wheeless. ‘We’ve been very happy with LKM and wish them all the best.’

Wheeless said the client would not seek a new agency immediately. The merger will create a new company identity, Duke Energy, which eliminates the need to push the Duke Power name.

LKM’s resignation is the second time in recent months the client has been let go. Late last year Kirk Communications resigned the corporate and image parts of the account (Adweek, Dec. 9. 1996). At about the same time, the Charlotte, N.C.-based utility mistakenly issued a request for qualifications, setting off rumors that the account was going into review. Client officials said, however, the request went out ‘prematurely’ and its purpose was to examine advertising costs, not seek a new agency.

–with Katy Eckmannv

Copyright ASM Communications, Inc. (1997) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED