Edison Rolls Out Ad Campaign to Soften Up Merger Opposition

Times Staff Writer

Southern California Edison used full-page newspaper advertisements today to kick off a public-relations campaign aimed at drumming up support in San Diego for its proposed merger with San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

The proposed merger will “brighten” San Diego’s future through lower rates, better service and increased support of community activities, according to the advertisement, which is being paid for by Edison’s shareholders.

The advertisement, one of a series that will run for a week, is “designed to reassure people about what will and won’t happen after the merger,” according to Edison spokeswoman Diane Wittenberg.


The Power of Pavlov

“I have the feeling that the Edison name will become ingrained in our collective mind during the next year or two,” said Michael Shames, executive director of Utility Consumers Action Network, a San Diego-based consumer group. “I’m sure that Edison’s executives have read the book on Pavlov, and I’d expect them to do a lot” in the way of advertisements.

Upcoming ads will focus on Edison’s long history of community involvement, Wittenberg said. One ad will include “several testimonials” from officials in some of the 800 communities served by the Rosemead-based firm.

“San Diegans will get a chance to see what other cities have to say about Edison,” she said, adding that the advertisements will focus on Edison’s community involvement in various communities throughout Southern California.

Vow to Cut Rate Reiterated

Edison initiated the advertising campaign to counter fears that it would reduce SDG&E;'s historically high levels of support for San Diego’s philanthropic, cultural, civic and business activities, Wittenberg said.

Today’s advertisement repeats Edison’s promise to seek a 10% residential rate decrease for San Diegans. It also promises that service will “get even better than it is today” and argues that the proposed merger would not cause “significant layoffs” of SDG&E; employees.

The advertising was created by a Los Angeles-based advertising agency, Wittenberg said.

Besides the newspaper ads, Edison Chairman Howard Allen will speak to the San Diego Economic Development Corp., the San Diego City Club and a local Rotary group.

“Mr. Allen has agreed to make public appearances when he’s invited to do so,” Wittenberg said. “It’s all part of our effort to communicate directly to the residents of San Diego.”

Edison’s advertising campaign marked the second time in recent months that the large utility has used newspaper ads to explain why it wants to merge with SDG&E.; Early in September, an Edison ad asked SDG&E; shareholders and customers to press SDG&E;'s board to accept Edison’s merger proposal.