Russians Turn to Virginia Shop

Siddall, Matus & Coughter’s first print campaign for Yukos Oil introduces the Russian petroleum company to the American and Western European markets.

The Richmond, Va., shop acquired the estimated $3-5 million account following a review. Initially, SM&C was one of at least five agencies—two American, two British and one German—invited to pitch the Moscow-based client’s advertising business.

According to SM&C president John Siddall, Yukos’ first choice was the Golly Slater Group. When the deal with that London shop fell through in September, the oil firm contacted Siddall. Negotiations involved several trips by agency personnel to Moscow before an agreement was reached last month.

A series of print ads, each carrying “It’s time to learn Russian!” as a tagline, broke last month in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Financial Times, BusinessWeek, the Economist and the Moscow Times.

At the client’s re-quest, the ad launch coincided with President George W. Bush’s recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Pu-tin. It had been apparent that the leaders would discuss global oil resources in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

Russia produces an estimated 5 million barrels of oil daily. Led by principal owner and chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Yukos, with 1 million barrels per day, is the country’s largest producer.

“Their marketing strategy has been to introduce their products and the idea of doing business with companies in the U.S. and Western Europe, even before [Sept. 11],” Siddall said.

He said the Russians were im-pressed by his agency’s credentials, media plan and its proximity to Washington, D.C.

“I don’t think they thought our creative was right,” he said, describing the work presented as metaphorical. “They wanted very simple ads that used quotes [about the company] from the Financial Times, Fortune and The New York Times at the center of the ads.”

The quotes, describing Yukos as Russia’s most profitable oil company, for example, came from articles appearing in the publications. The excerpts appear in Russian with English translations.

SM&C worked with Direct De-sign of London to produce the ads.

“Their thinking was that in the West business decision makers don’t know Yukos, but they know and trust these business publications,” said Siddall.