Frontlines

Fortnightly Magazine - June 1 1996
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Oliver Richard is a gas man. His career includes a stint at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as well as at Tenngasco, Northern Natural Gas Co., Enron, New Jersey Resources Corp., and The Columbia Gas System, Inc. Now he's found a new calling. He wants to be an ad man.

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Several weeks ago I heard Richard describe his idea for the perfect 30-second TV spot to plug natural gas. Two utility CEOs are on the golf course. "Electricity costs too much," says one. "Some towns can't get gas service," says the other. "That stinks." The picture fades as the gas man gets the last word: "Of course it stinks. It's supposed to. It's natural gas."

Richard sees a problem with UtiliCorp's national marketing plan and its EnergyOne brand: No competition. UtiliCorp has differentiated its product all right, but from what? Richard says: "UtiliCorp probably hopes that another utility will introduce a second nationwide brand name . . . to create the sort of friendly battle that will escalate public awareness of their energy products."

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