WASHINGTON: The American Chemistry Council (ACC) will begin hearing final pitches this week for a $50 million campaign to revive the embattled industry's image.
The competition has been narrowed to three teams of advertising and PR shops: Ogilvy PR Worldwide and Ogilvy & Mather, Burson-Marsteller and Young & Rubicam, and Middleberg Euro RSCG and Euro RSCG Worldwide.
A decision is expected by mid-March.
Conducting the search is a task force made up of executives from ACC member companies, along with Los Angeles-based consultancy Bob Wolf Partners/TPG (BWP).
"There is a disparity between the public image of the (chemical) industry and the benefits that the industry provides to our society," said Dan Pearlman, CEO and managing partner of BWP. "And that disparity has resulted in an uneven playing field where activists can say anything they want about the industry, yet there's no balance or counterargument in the stories."
What is still unclear, however, is which medium will take the lead. "There is a public affairs component, there may or may not be an ad component, there may or may not be an interactive component," Pearlman speculated.
"There are many ways to communicate this message, and the task force is charged with doing this in a media-neutral and cost-effective way."
Among the ACC's recent efforts have been taking a strong stance in the battle to cut greenhouse emissions, and communicating with Congress the importance of finding alternatives to natural gas.
Sources close to the competition say the ACC's proposed effort is modeled on the American Plastics Council's (APC) 1990s integrated campaign showing different ways plastics have made lives better, longer, and safer - largely considered one of the most successful efforts ever to reposition an entire industry.
Backing up the speculation is the fact that the ACC recently merged with the APC and reports that several key APC people are assisting in the search.
The competition seems to hinge not on familiarity with the chemical industry, but a proven ability to turn brands around.
As the primary representation for the US' largest chemical companies, the ACC changed its name in 2000 as the first step toward remaking itself in the wake of rising public antipathy. It had been known as the Chemical Manufacturers Association.