Exxon Mobil taps DDB for branding

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DDB Worldwide, New York, is about to land the plum post-merger branding assignment for Exxon Corp. and Mobil Corp., according to executives close to the situation.

Agency contracts can't be finalized until after the deal is approved by the Federal Trade Commission, but executives close to the companies said DDB will create the first branding work for the soon-to-be renamed Exxon Mobil Corp.

Spending for the assignment was undisclosed. Together, Exxon and Mobil spent $81 million on measured advertising last year.

LONGTIME LOYALTIES

DDB has handled Mobil since 1949, while McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Houston, has managed Exxon's ad strategy since 1912.

DDB and McCann both declined comment, as did the oil companies.

Although Exxon is the larger of the two companies, it's Mobil's agency that initially will brand the new entity. However, McCann is also developing some work. It's unclear which shop, if either, will become agency of record for the combined company.

Exxon is the world's largest oil company, with 1998 sales of $118 billion. Mobil ranks No. 4, with $53.5 billion in sales in 1998.

Mobil has long branded itself with a slashed zero and a Pegasus, while Exxon's well-known icon is a tiger.

The oil conglomerates announced the $74 billion merger in December 1998, and had hoped to finalize the deal by next month. But the merger could be delayed as regulators press for additional antitrust concessions. The delay would also hold up the announcement of a DDB branding assignment and launch of new work.

Mobil spent $63 million on its U.S. advertising last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Through June this year, it spent $24 million.

Of the $63 million for 1998, Mobil spent an estimated $40 million branding its gas, $14 million promoting its Speedpass system and $9 million on its Mobil One lubes.

Exxon spent $18 million on U.S. advertising in 1998. Through June of this year, it spent a mere $3 million.

USING OTHER SHOPS

Exxon has tapped into additional shops for projects in the past. In 1998, the marketer worked with Bright Sun Consulting, New York, on strategy and several creative executions. McCann's current Exxon work is themed "Save the tiger." The agency also handles Exxon's Esso campaign in markets outside the U.S.

DDB was given a vote of confidence earlier this year when Mobil shifted its lube account from Grace & Rothschild, New York, to DDB in May.

DDB also earned Mobil's favor by creating a well-received campaign for Mobil's Speedpass--its 2-year-old automatic payment system. More than 3 million Americans are now using the Speedpass system.

Contributing: Dave Guilford

Copyright September 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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