Texas PUC Awards 4-Yr., $35 Mil. Effort

Burson-Marsteller has been chosen by the Texas Public Utility Commission to lead a four-year, approximately $35 million effort to educate consumers about the state’s upcoming deregulated energy market.

The shop’s Dallas office teamed with Earle Palmer Brown in Philadelphia to win the account. The two agencies had previously collaborated on an open-energy-market campaign for Pennsylvania.

Burson-Marsteller will handle public relations and government-affairs communications; EPB will take on general-market ad duties.

Other partners include Guera DeBerry in San Antonio for Hispanic advertising; Ware & Associates in Fort Worth, Texas, for African American outreach; and Asian American specialist Great Wall Enterprises in Houston.

Burson-Marsteller has also hired Fred Pratt, a former aide to the Texas state senator who sponsored the deregulation bill, as a manager in its public-affairs unit. “Our team’s experience with [energy deregulation in] Pennsylvania, which is a model program, carried a lot of weight with [the commission’s selection committee],” said Mike Lake, manager of Burson-Marsteller in Dallas. “Our task is now to position Texas as the new model for consumer education.”

Burson-Marsteller’s nomination by the committee is pending the approval of a board vote this week.

The planned campaign, one of the largest government-sponsored advertising initiatives in Texas, could begin as early as November to promote a pilot program that starts next year. Full-market energy liberalization will take place in 2002.

“We have a challenge because the consumer has a poor opinion of long-distance deregulation—they think of dinner calls and slamming,” said Lake.

Other finalists for the PUC educational campaign were Texas agencies Sherry Matthews Advertising in Austin and Berry-Brown Advertising and McCann-Erickson Southwest, both in Dallas.

Burson-Marsteller, with billings of about $5 million in Dallas, began operating in Texas last year. It recently opened an Austin office.