American Petroleum Institute Seeks Agency for Advocacy Campaign

Trade Group's New Project Not Expected to Affect Current Shops Edelman, Ogilvy

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The American Petroleum Institute is hunting for a new agency to handle creative, media and public affairs as it readies an advocacy campaign, according to executives familiar with the matter.

The API, which is the oil industry's largest trade group, is planning to spend up to $20 million on the campaign, executives said. Wendy Hagen, a Washington-based consultant who had worked on a review for the America's Natural Gas Alliance in 2009, is said to be handling the search.

API recently issued a request-for-proposal document to several agencies about this project, and interestingly, although much of what the trade group is seeking is creative thinking, a number of PR agencies seem to be participating in the process.

The new project isn't expected to faact API's 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 API.

The institute declined to comment on the review, and Edelman didn't immediately return calls for comment. It's not clear whether Edelman has been invited to participate in the review.

That API is plotting a new campaign isn't surprising, given the ever-escalating energy debate and recurring environmental crises which have not been kind to petroleum's image. For example, "fracking" has taken heat as an environmentally invasive way to extract natural gas from the earth. Ongoing debate over environmental policy and regulation, coupled with the nearing 2012 presidential election, are likely putting the pressure on the group to create advocates.

PR agencies such as Burson-Marsteller and Hill & Knowlton have responded by launching energy practice groups and have brought on senior-level executives to specialize in the space.

API spent over $7 million in lobbying in 2009 and 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. This year to-date, it has spent a little over $4 million.

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