The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


August 6, 2012

Gas industry advertising shifts toward issues

PITTSBURGH — Black-and-white images show steelworkers inside a mill. They walk outside and hand a short section of pipe to a natural gas crew, shown in full color.

"Drilling is just the beginning," says the new Range Resources Corp. TV ad that ties Western Pennsylvania's steel history to the gas drilling industry that's taken hold here in recent years.

The "baton" handoff ad shot with local workers at U.S. Steel Corp.'s Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock runs during NBC's Olympics broadcasts across most of Pennsylvania. It's the kickoff for Range's new campaign, and a sign the industry is ramping up its messages to the public in higher-profile media slots.

Along with Range's ads and Consol Energy Inc.'s recent "America's Energy Starts Here" campaign promoting natural gas and coal, national trade groups such as the American Petroleum Institute and the three-year-old America's Natural Gas Alliance are buying more air time, billboard and print spaces in relevant markets and using social media to make their points, said Thomas Hoffman, an Upper St. Clair energy communications expert.

"There is a lot of messaging out there, and my guess is it's motivated in part by some of the controversy that surrounds fracking," he said, referring to the process of fracturing shale underground to free pockets of natural gas.

"The industry now is trying to address the environmental issues. That's different from the beginning, where they were talking more about jobs" and the benefits of leasing land for drilling sites, said Hoffman, who has his own firm, Carbon Communications Consultants.

Fort Worth-based Range, with a regional headquarters in Cecil, said its latest ads by agency Big Picture Communications Inc. of Mt. Lebanon convey its vision for what natural gas could bring to the region.

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