DOW CHEMICAL IN BID TO REPOSITION BRAND

Four Advertising Holding Companies to Pitch for Business

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Dow Chemical Co., frequently scarred by PR debacles over the years, is looking for agency help in repositioning its corporate brand.
Dow, which manufactures plastics, petrochemicals, hydrocarbons, herbicides and pesticides is the largest U.S. chemical company.

Advertising and PR
The four major holding companies are fielding agency teams, all led by PR shops, in a competition for Dow’s advertising and PR business, according to executives familiar with the situation.

They are: WPP Group’s Burson-Marsteller and Y&R Advertising; Omnicom Group’s Porter Novelli (which already has some Dow business) and BBDO; Interpublic Goup of Cos.’ GolinHarris and Foote Cone & Belding; Publicis Groupe’s Manning Selvage & Lee and Publicis Worldwide.

The agencies either declined to comment or referred calls to Dow. Presentations are at Dow’s Midland, Mich., headquarters Feb. 27-28.

A Dow spokeswoman declined to answer questions about the review and instead issued a statement that read, in part: “Dow launched a comprehensive and integrated corporate-communications program in 2005 and continues to discuss how to accelerate these efforts. We have no further detail to provide at this point.”

Burnishing the brand
Never a huge media spender, Dow has made memorable forays into advertising, usually to burnish a corporate brand frequently trampled by scandals. Over the years, the 109-year-old company has dealt with fallout related to a number of its products from its role in helping produce Vietnam War-era defoliant Agent Orange and napalm to potentially cancer-causing breast implants.

As such, Dow has been the target of everyone from Jane Fonda to the Environmental Protection Agency, whose inspectors it once turned away.

In 2001, Dow launched a new slogan, “Living. Improved Daily,” as part of an effort to better talk to consumers. It was unclear whether that will remain. Dow spent about $15 million in measured media between January and November 2005, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Dow recently caught flak during the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. In 1984 a Union Carbide plant near the central Indian town let loose 40 tons of lethal methyl isocyante, a toxic gas, killing thousands. Activists have been pushing Dow, which bought Union Carbide in 2001, to clean up the site, but the company has said Union Carbide fulfilled its requirements with a $470 million settlement.

PR has clearly been on the mind of Dow and its rivals. In September, the American Chemistry Council launched a two-year, $35 million public education campaign to tout the benefits of chemical companies.

Dow, which has annual sales of about $46 billion and employs 42,000 people globally, produces a broad range of chemical, plastic and agricultural products.

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Kate MacArthur contributed to this report.

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