Energy industry unveils £85m plan to tout smart meter benefits

The energy industry has joined forces for a nationwide campaign that seeks to rally support for smart meters by touting the devices as a platform for future lifestyle changes in households.

SmartMeterCampaign-Campaign-2014
Cartoon versions of gas and electricity (Gaz and Leccy) will star in ads nationwide later this month.

Smart Energy GB, an organisation set up by the Government and funded by energy companies, is launching the first phase of the £85 seven-year marketing plan next week (8 July). It was first revealed in March and the campaign will play a key role in the Government’s £11bn plan to install the devices in every home by 2020.

Smart Energy GB brand identity has been formed to embody the push, highlighting how the devices can transform the relationship between UK consumers and energy companies. Print and TV ads will speak to the concerns of many homeowners by showing how smart meters control boisterous, Tom and Jerry-esque cartoon versions of gas and electricity, dubbed Gaz and Leccy respectively. A coolly delivered voiceover urging people to ask their energy provider for more details will offset the chaos caused by the duo.

The AMV BBDO and PHD-created approach was picked to tackle the trust issues engulfing the sector and create apathy around energy efficiency. Customers see the product as being “very functional” according to the Smart Energy GB and are confused about how it differs from existing energy monitors. The creative will expand to showcase future uses linked to smart meters being a core component in the connected home to clear up the comparison.

Gavin Sheppard, marketing director for the Smart Energy GB, says: “What we’re doing needs to be serve as both the pirate and the navy. Our ads need to surprise consumers and challenge their perceptions but also have an air of authority and credibility.

“The key message is that this roll out is going to finally let consumers get their energy consumption under control and help address the bemusement often experienced when engaging with the sector. To do that, we’ve tried to show how smart meters are not just a product but a platform for how people can change their lifestyles in the connected homes of the future.”

It could be easier said than done after recent research raised doubts over the likelihood of reaching the 2020 target. While most people (84 per cent) have heard of smart meters, according to a report commissioned by Smart Energy GB, fewer than half (44 per cent) want one.

The lack of interest is why Smart Energy GB is also seeking unions with charities, local authorities and private sector companies. Initial deals will be announced later this year when the organisation launches “innovative” co-branded campaigns to create more “meaningful” conversations around energy efficiency.

Sheppard adds: “We have a limited life span as an organisation and so don’t want to spend the next six years building fantastic relationships with people for us to then pull the rug from underneath them when the program finishes. Through the partnerships we can use those charities and public sector firms to deepen the relationships they already have with their customers and talk to them about smart meters in a more meaningful context.”

Energy providers including British Gas and Npower have made early attempts to promote the takeup of their own smart meter services but there is yet to be any major marketing for the technology across the sector. Suppliers have voiced concerns at hitting the 2020 target due to the extra costs they would have to pass on to consumers.

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