Manchester-based energy company Norweb has hired Charles
Barker to help it prepare for deregulation of the domestic gas
and electricity markets.
The agency has been brought in on a three-month trial period
which, if successful, will lead to a two year contract estimated
to be worth around pounds 200,000 a year.
Twenty seven agencies responded to Norweb’s call for tenders (PR
Week, 8 November, 1996), from which four - Lowe Bell, the Rowland
Company, Charles Barker and Shandwick - were asked to pitch last
The original brief called for PR support in two gas deregulation
test markets: the South West, where domestic gas customers have
been able to shop around for suppliers since April 1996, and the
South East, which was opened to competition in January.
Norweb has since decided not to participate in the South East
test and is understood to be considering dropping Norweb Gas as
its trading name because it is too strongly associated with the
If Charles Barker completes its trial, its major task will be to
prepare Norweb for the introduction of gas deregulation
nationally. This was originally due to take place next year, at
the same time as deregulation of domestic electricity supply.
However, under new plans announced by the Government last week,
the timetable for gas has been brought forward and could mean
some regions, such as Scotland and the North East, opening up to
competition as early as October.
Although Norweb had refrained from the door step selling tactics
which prompted criticism when adopted by companies in the South
West, PR manager Derek Brown said Norweb was now trialling the
technique itself. But he said the PR campaign would focus on
’branding, customer service and added value products’.