'Gas Guy' Fires Up Campaign

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Gas Guy is lighting up Georgia.

Georgia Natural Gas, Atlanta, the state's largest natural gas retailer, began an integrated, multimedia marketing campaign Sept. 8 featuring Gas Guy, a tall blue "spokesflame" who will educate Georgia consumers about GNG's customer service and market position.

Georgia Natural Gas supplies more than 500,000 Georgia homes and businesses. It serves natural gas customers in metro Atlanta along with Macon, Augusta, Athens and Rome. The company typically starts a campaign at this time of year.

"This is the start of the heating season, when people start to think about natural gas, so we typically launch our big marketing effort at this time of year," said Ina Blackstock, vice president of marketing.

Unlike other markets where gas is not fully deregulated, "we are in a competitive marketplace in Georgia, so we are competing against companies for natural gas customers in this market area," she said.

Georgia's gas market became deregulated in 1998. The marketplace has 10 gas companies, including four large competitors, she said.

The campaign includes outdoor, radio, direct marketing and Web elements supported with personal appearances by Gas Guy, who will use his lighthearted approach to encourage consumers to select GNG as their natural gas supplier. BBDO Atlanta developed the Gas Guy character in 1998 to help launch GNG after the market deregulation, and brings back the character with this campaign.

Direct mail drops at the end of this month to several hundred thousand prospects, designed to encourage people to switch to GNG. Customers can do that by calling GNG's call center or at www.georgianaturalgas.com.

"Direct mail allows us to target likely prospects in a cost-efficient way," said Blackstock, who noted that each year it gets good response rates.

This effort is GNG's first to use Internet webisodes, which are short videos that convey messages in an entertaining way. The webisodes will launch by the end of September at www.gasguy.com, a promotional site that links to georgianaturalgas.com. GNG eventually will remove gasguy.com and post the webisodes on georgianaturalgas.com, its corporate site.

The webisodes include story lines in which Gas Guy saves the day.

"He is basically personifying our brand attributes of superior customer service and leadership," Blackstock said.

Two or three webisodes are expected. The company will decide how many after it determines the number of people who visit gasguy.com.

"We'll be able to track the number of hits on the gasguy.com Web site, and that will tell us what kind of acceptance it has," Blackstock said.

GNG is using viral marketing to promote the site, as employees will first view the site and then send the site's link to their contacts.

BBDO Atlanta also developed the radio and outdoor elements. Aspen Productions produced the webisodes. See see eye redesigned georgianaturalgas.com to include Gas Guy, and Fitzpatrick & Lewis worked on public relations. Level 1 Design handled graphic design of collateral materials, and Harland worked with GNG on direct marketing while CMI Solution executed marketing research.


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