Exxon Mobil global work put in review

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Exxon Mobil Corp. is conducting a review for its consolidated global fuel-marketing business. The $100 million-plus account is now split between DDB Worldwide and McCann-Erickson Worldwide.

Executives close to the marketer said DDB is in a shoot-out with McCann and a decision is expected in the next two weeks.

Lauren Kerr, a spokeswoman for the client's downstream operations unit, declined to name the contenders.

DDB has had Mobil since 1949. McCann has been with Exxon since 1912 and handles its Esso brand outside the U.S. Neither agency would comment on the review proceedings.

The Fairfax, Va., headquarters of the downstream operations unit is overseeing the global pitch, Ms. Kerr said. Executives from each of the marketer's five regions--North America, South America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Africa-Middle East--are also involved.

BRANDS MARKETED TOGETHER

One executive said the business could be broken up along product assignments or by geographic regions. The account also could be consolidated at one agency, the executive added. No matter how the review shakes out, each region will use just one agency to market both Exxon and Mobil brands, which united in a December merger.

DDB's New York office is spearheading the agency's pitch, while the Houston office is the lead in McCann's effort.

The agencies have presented strategic and organizational capabilities, said executives with knowledge of the proceedings. Creative is not a part of the presentations, but will be an integral part of the assignment.

"We're working to make a decision as quickly as possible," said Ms. Kerr.

DDB got a vote of confidence from Exxon Mobil in September when it was tapped for the plum post-merger global corporate branding assignment. DDB created a $10 million to $15 million TV, print and Internet blitz that ran in more than 100 countries. That corporate assignment isn't part of the current review.

Last May, Mobil shifted its U.S. lubricant business for motor oil to DDB from Grace & Rothschild, New York. The lubricant account is overseen by a separate division.

Mobil placed a greater emphasis on its marketing expenditures than Exxon in recent years. Last year, Mobil spent about $45 million on U.S. advertising; Exxon spent just $4.4 million. In 1998, Mobil spent $63 million on its U.S. advertising while Exxon spent $18 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

INDUSTRY GLOBALIZES

The review would make Exxon Mobil the third oil company to globalize its advertising, an ongoing trend as the clients merge.

BP Amoco formed in December 1998 after British Petroleum acquired Amoco Corp., Chicago. The marketer shifted its estimated $200 million account to Ogilvy & Mather, London, in November. BP's agency was Doner, Southfield, Mich. Amoco, a U.S.-only brand, had Leo Burnett USA, Chicago.

Ogilvy won the account without a review, just a week after resigning Shell Oil Co.'s U.S. retail gas account after nearly 30 years. Ogilvy also had bits and pieces of Shell around the world. But in 1998, Shell consolidated its international account with J. Walter Thompson Co., London. In December, JWT's Houston office won the estimated $40 million service-station account for two Shell-Texaco U.S. joint ventures.

Contributing: Laurel Wentz

Copyright May 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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