Shell allocates first major group image budget

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LONDON -- Shell International is dedicating a $30 million budget to its first coodinated approach to improving its group image around the world. It has appointed public relations company Fishburn Hedges, London, to review its communications and J. Walter Thompson, also London, to advise on any role advertising might play.

Few details have been agreed at this stage, spokesman James Herbert confirms, including whether JWT would be the agency to implement advertising if it's suggested, when the review will begin and how long it will last. The spend of up to $30 million earmarked for the first year includes the cost of the review. The company wouldn't disclose the breakdown.

JWT, one of Shell's roster agencies, pitched on its own against the combined teams of Saatchi & Saatchi and Fishburn Hedges, and M&C Saatchi and PR consultants Hill & Knowlton, all London.

The move is part of a process within the Shell group worldwide, started three years ago, to shift from a "tell me" communications stance to a "show me" approach. "Shell had a reputation for being fairly non-communicative which has [now] changed," says Mr. Herbert. "The change is a business-driven process both designed to improve returns on capital and recognizing our import in society and becoming more open and transparent."

Negative publicity in recent years - such as that caused by its dealings with the Brent Spar oil rig - has acted as a catalyst for the company's drive to communicate more, Mr. Herbert admits. "It's probably fair enough to say [those incidents] caused Shell to recognize it did need to dialogue more - to explain and engage."

Copyright July 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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