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Fina Leaving Dallas?

After I got over the initial shock that Fina is moving to Houston, I started thinking about the company’s deep roots in Dallas. If you’ve been here awhile, you might remember that Fina sponsored the first traffic reports back in 1962, when the old WRR-AM used a couple of police scanners-there were only two police channels at the time- to monitor the roadways. The station later moved its traffic watchers atop the Southland Life building (now [he Adam’s Mark Hotel), where they used binoculars to look for jams on Central Expressway and the 1-30 “mixmaster.” Jim Lowe, Big Tex’s voice until this year, handed off the Fina Traffic Report to Hal King, who’d cue up the report in the studio by hitting a bell twice with a wooden mallet, recreating the sound that used to alert gas station attendants that a car had driven up to the pumps. That was back when they used to call them service stations and meant it. Old-timers probably rememberpink air, too. (“Pink air makes the inside of your tires look pretty.”) In fact, the 1964 Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog’s gift pick was his and hers hot air balloons, pictured next to a tank full of Fina’s pink air. And who can forget the ad campaign, “Fina gasoline adds phlash to your car”? Phlash? It was just 14 months ago that Fina moved into 258,000 square feet of space in Piano, so it’s pretty obvious the relocation was unexpected. But after three mergers in one year, the company is now a subsidiary of French oil giant TotalFina. The move to Houston is a consolidation of operations intended to cut costs and bring it closer to the U.S. headquarters of France’s Elf Aquitaine, which TotalFina is taking over in a deal that will create the world’s fourth largest oil company. Fina President and CEO Ron Haddock says the company’s 500 local employees have until Dec. 1 to decide whether to relocate to Houston, and that’s when Haddock will announce his plans, too. Personally, I don’t ever think he’d pay a Harris County property tax.

7-Up’s Killer Ad Campaign

Piano-based 7-Up has always gotten second billing behind Dr Pepper: It’s Dr Pepper, slash, 7-Up. But that could change as [he soft drink’s deep-pockeled owner. Cadbury-Schweppes, gets ready to launch a new ad campaign that debuts during Ricky Martin’s CBS special the day after Thanksgiving. Using the tag line “Make 7-Up Yours” (and depending on which words you emphasize that can lead to some interesting variations) and a relatively unknown actor-comedian, Orlando Jones, the ads are hip enough for teenagers, but without offending adults. In one ad Jones holds a can of 7-Up and asks viewers to “show us your can!” And they do, including an enormous person mooning him, and one that draws this reaction: “My God, it looks like two Christmas hams.” It’s really fun. Personally, I think the ads are knee-slap-pers, but you need to check them out yourself. I’m just sorry you have to wade through a Ricky Martin concert to do so.

An Udderly Fantastic Deal

Suiza Foods is on its way to becoming the first national dairy processor, bringing order to the chaos of a very fragmented industry. After more than 30 mergers in the past three years. Suiza chairman Greg Engles announced in September what has to be the granddaddy of them all. a $6 billion deal to acquire Pete Schenkle’s Southern Foods (nee Schepps Dairy). Oak Farms, Borden, Elsie, and Meadow Gold are just a few of the familiar names that are going be united by the two Dallasites, who will serve as cochairmen. For my money, the secret to their success is the marketing of milk like soft drinks. Milk is showing up in single-serving plastic bottles, and kids think it’s pop-or at least don’t know it’s good for them. Who knows, maybe these two will come up with something truly revolutionary like, say, home delivery.


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