Conducting a smart campaign

Conducting a smart campaign

“When we started, we had two choices: a nice, hygienic government information campaign that would have landed the messages, but would anybody have cared? Or we could be brave and innovative; take on the culture in the industry; create a campaign that might resonate in a low-interest category and bring hearts with us as well as minds.”

Gavin Sheppard, Director of Marketing at Smart Energy GB, describes one of Great Britain’s largest-ever public information campaigns – to convince the public to adopt smart meters.

Q: What is smart metering, and why is it necessary?

A: If you think about what we use to measure electricity and gas consumption in all of our homes, it’s essentially Victorian-designed metering technology.

There’s no way of regulating supply, or of finding out exactly what you’re using, so we’ve ended up with a weird system of estimated energy bills. Smart meters address that by allowing for accurate readings.

The plan is to roll out smart meters to every home and microbusiness by 2020, delivering savings of £17.1bn over 10 years – £26 per year by 2020 and £43 per year by 2030 for every household.

In the longer term, it opens the door to much more innovation – things like smart tariffs, which charge for energy at different rates at different times, encouraging consumption when power is most available. We think of smart meters as a platform for future innovation, not a product destination in its own right.

Energy is the last big analogue industry in the United Kingdom. So this is probably the last national infrastructure project of this scale we will see in terms of a digital upgrade.

Q: How does Smart Energy GB come into it?

A: We’re a not-for-profit organisation set up by statute to facilitate the rollout of smart meters; the government mandated the industry to create and fund us.

But we are independent of the energy companies and the government: that’s a really important point, as 68% of people would trust an independent body but only 18 % trust energy suppliers.

Q: How did you go about creating a campaign?

A: Our starting point was insight – talking to consumers. We spoke with more than 27,000 in 2014 alone. Twice a year we do national research into consumers’ attitudes to energy, and we also hold focus groups about the issues. And we sat down with more than 100 stakeholder organisations to discuss the barriers to people receiving the messages.

After talking to people, you quickly understand they are concerned about control. They say things like: “I don’t feel in control of my energy use, don’t understand how it’s charged, how to cut my costs.”

From there, we had to decide whether to build on the anger and frustration, and where to direct it.

Q: How did you decide to work with this message?

A: After deciding that control was the issue, we needed to work out how to manifest that in people’s minds. So we appointed AMVBBDO and PHD as our creative and media agencies, and they undertook a lot of testing with consumers.

They landed on some kind of clear ‘dos and don’ts’ from that research: don’t do smart v dumb, as consumers don’t always have a choice; don’t focus on money; don’t use a stereotypical family, as huge swathes of the country will say “that doesn’t look like me”; and don’t use animals.

Instead, they said: create an idea to highlight how ludicrous the current system is; use characters rather than people; use a modern visual style; create an ownable character; do something unusual to capture consumers’ imagination and cut through.

That’s why we decided to personify gas and electricity [as Gaz and Leccy] as our creative vehicle, creating ‘Tom and Jerry’ type characters that are out of control in your house.

But there are two sides to this. Gaz and Leccy are the agitator – cutting through and bringing the problem to life. That’s our pirate persona. We need to be the navy in this, and reassure consumers that the smart meter rollout is the solution. So smart energy and smart meters are represented through calm voiceovers.

Q: Can you tell us about one of the challenges you’ve faced?

A: The government’s target is for 100% of people in Great Britain to upgrade to a smart meter by 2020. That means reaching audiences brands don’t normally want to get through to because they’re not profitable, such as vulnerable people, and creating ways to get through to them from scratch.

So we’ve done some segmentation of those households, have consulted publicly, and have created a very specific approach for reaching and supporting them.

Q: What channels are you using, and how will the campaign progress in future?

A: In 2015 we’ve been quite tethered to a regional smart meter rollout. So we took the step of building a bespoke media planning regional tool – Smart Compass – which aggregates about a billion data points into one planning tool. We take in the energy providers’ smart rollout plan; a bespoke segmentation for the entire nation; attitudinal statements; census data; and details of the whole British media estate – from the coverage of radio and TV stations all the way down to where every single out-of-home panel is.

The tool allows us to make granular decisions about media and helps us to engage and minimise wastage. We also use ad tracking and econometrics to consistently optimise the channel planner over time.

So far we’ve been running regional focus campaigns, mainly using radio and out-of-home. At some point next year we’re going to transition to more efficient national channels as suppliers ramp up their installation plans. We’ll begin appearing on national channels, including TV.

Q: What have the results been like so far?

A: Really positive – we ran our first radio ad about a year ago, and found that 60% of those exposed to the campaign recall our top four messages, against a category benchmark of 40%. Two-thirds of people who recalled the ad report taking some action, such as visiting their provider’s smart meter website.

We haven’t even launched our main website yet, and we are already ranked in the top five of Google for some of the most searched for smart meter related keywords in Great Britain. In the last six months, we’ve had about 1.2 million views of our content on YouTube. We’re very happy with the way we’ve started.

As an example, we did a particular execution earlier this year with the Daily Mirror. We did an April Fools’ Day stunt to bring to light the ridiculousness of estimating power bills by creating the ‘Office of Estimation’, which would estimate things in other areas of life.

We ran it as a full-page feature in the Mirror, it got picked up online and on broadcast media. The supporting video was seen five million times in five hours, and 10 million times in a couple of days – an audience of one in eight UK adults.

The week after, we had one in ten recall, and 73% of those recalling it said it had made them more interested in getting a smart meter.

Q: What do you have planned for the future?

A: We need to achieve the final results for Great Britain by 2020.The next big move for us is a couple of amplification moments between now and next summer to establish estimation as the problem, and Gaz and Leccy as the creative vehicle.

Our ‘Office of Estimation’ stunt was so successful that we’re building on the back of it with a series of films challenging estimation as a concept – what would it be like if the size of your wedding dress was estimated, or if your architect estimated the size of your living room? 

As part of the switch to national channels, we’ve recently released a piece of content in our estimation strand – a video of a groundsman marking the rugby pitch by estimatingWe’re running it on YouTube’s Rugby World Cup coverage.


Steve Woolley Head of External Affairs CIM
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