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Con Edison Solutions, the newly formed deregulated retail arm of Consolidated Edison, is expected to name Yellowstone Group, Irvington, N.Y., as its agency following a five-shop review.

An ad budget hasn't been set, but industry observers estimate budgets from $10 million and up will be necessary to establish brands and win customers in the soon-to-be-deregulated electric utility industry.


Con Edison Solutions, expected to focus on its service offerings in the Northeast, was looking for a smaller local agency, said Salina Le Bris, director of communications and public relations for the company.

"The Yellowstone Group won the account hands down on the level of creativity," she said. "And they had done their homework" about the industry.

Yellowstone plans to expand its eight-person staff to accommodate the new work, said President David Doss, one of three partners in the agency. The group will add five to six key positions in the next three months, and continue staffing up gradually as needed, he said.

One of the challenges facing Yellowstone and other electric utility agencies is differentiating their clients from the rest of the pack. Some critics say many of the brand strategy and advertising campaigns coming out now have a cliched sameness.

"The current lack of creativity across-the-board [in utility advertising] comes from a lack of focus. Agencies have to go in and help companies understand where they want to go and what they want to do," said Mike Rucker, principal of consultancy Second Opinion.


Mr. Doss agreed that, in general, utilities advertising does have that "same old look" and is too technical or too vague. Although the Con Edison Solutions campaign won't be out until early next year, Yellowstone plans to go in a different direction, he said.

"We're going to come out with a simple, strong message that stands out from the crowd," Mr. Doss said. "Everybody else is coming out too technical and confusing the customer. Or they've got branding campaigns that don't tell you what they're

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