Fleishman-Hillard's New PR Challenge: Backing 'Fracking'

API Hires Omnicom Shop for Advocacy Campaign

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The American Petroleum Institute has hired Omnicom's Fleishman-Hillard to support an issues campaign that advocates hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," which is the controversial practice of extracting shale oil and natural gas.

The PR agency is tasked with an ad campaign to extend "Energy from Shale," an informational initiative and website that the trade group launched earlier this summer as an offshoot of its "Energy Tomorrow" campaign.

Fracking has for years incited backlash from those concerned that the practice is environmentally destructive. The coming election, rife with energy debates, is likely contributing to the fact that the movement against the practice is gaining momentum. Energy companies and API members like Exxon are running their own campaigns to respond to the critics and influence the general public and lawmakers as they seek to expand their shale assets and operations.

"The conversation on this issue is increasing," said an API spokesperson. "It has generated a lot of discussion in the public, and our members and industry as a whole want to be sure that this is an educated discussion and we're continuing to increase the public understanding of these issues."

During the agency review, knowledgeable executives said that the scope would likely span creative and public affairs duties, but as of right now an API spokesperson said that the focus will be the "strategic ad campaign." At the time, they also said that the budget would be near $20 million.

Fleishman-Hillard's appointment to handle the campaign came after a pitch for the busienss than included ten agencies, including Porter Novelli, Ketchum and its incumbent shops. Edelman currently supports both PR and advertising for API through its D.C.-based Blue Advertising group. WPP's Ogilvy handles government relations for the organization.

API said that the new project is only an extension of its communications efforts and that it will continue to work with its existing agencies.

Wendy Hagen, a Washington-based consultant who had worked on a review for the America's Natural Gas Alliance in 2009, handled the search.

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