Philly Utility Takes Soft Approach To Energy Use
People already know they need to conserve electricity -- if not for the environment, then for their own finances. But rather than scolding or shaming them into doing so, Philadelphia's PECO is taking a more lighthearted approach to get consumers to think about their energy consumption.
In a series of new television commercials from Tierney, the utility, a subsidiary of Exelon Corp., identifies certain energy-hogging "ogres" -- old appliances, windows and light bulbs -- and turns them into cartoonish creatures lurking in the house.
"We wanted them to be fun little ogres, like a mischievous child in your house," Patrick Hardy, executive creative director at the agency, tells Marketing Daily. "They're doing what they should be doing, but they're also draining your wallet and your energy use."
Played by puppeteers, the appliances are positioned as an inconvenience in consumers' daily lives. In one commercial, a man and his son attempting to fix a bicycle in a garage are interrupted by an old refrigerator that, in turning on, makes too much noise. A voiceover in the commercial explains that PECO will pay customers to get rid of their old appliances, and will pick them up. "We put our energy into saving you money," says the voiceover at the close of the spot.
Other executions in the pool include a drafty window, a dishwasher that spits out dishes and an old light bulb. Each commercial also directs consumers to www.peco.com/smartideas, where they can get more energy-saving solutions.
"A lot of people know their [appliances] are outdated and they know they're in their houses," Hardy says. "We wanted to have a fun way of saying PECO's going to help you replace these things."
The approach is an outgrowth of a new Pennsylvania law that requires utilities to reduce kilowatt-hour usage 3% by 2013, Hardy says. While the company could begin increasing rates next year (when a 2001 rate-freeze times out), the utility sought a more community-friendly approach.
"We have tried hard to soften the image that they're a behemoth utility company," Hardy says. "We've tried to position them as a community partner and they're not just raising your rates."
The television commercials will run on prime-time and local news slots on 5 broadcast and 10 cable networks in Philadelphia. Radio commercials, in which the appliances have voices reminiscent of a good ol' boy, a harping mother-in-law, a Frenchman and a Transylvanian) will run on the top 10 radio stations in the city, and out-of-home executions will appear on 250 billboards and bus shelters.