The campaign SAVE POWER- WHAT CAN YOU DO IN YOUR WORLD? is an australian initiative from the New South Wales (NSW) State Government launched in May 2009 and set up for almost two years as a response to the community’s request for more information about electricity impacts in the environment and ways to reduce them and save money in bills.
The objective of this campaign was to show households, public facilities and businesses different actions they could take in order to reduce carbon pollution and save money during peak electricity use periods (winter and summer).
This campaign was part of a larger program for community awareness, which include communications, community education, training and research under the framework of the different Energy Efficiency Strategy programs of NSW Government.
According to the Strategic Communications Site of NSW Government, this initiative was addressed to the 5.6 million over 18 years old in NSW, in order to offset the trend of increasing electricity consumption. The idea was to raise awareness about carbon pollution that comes from the coal-fired power stations (source of 90% of the NSW’s electricity). They tried to cover all the NSW community; apparently the campaign didn’t follow a “segmentation approach” targeting a specific audience with a defined message. They tried to raise awareness on a grand scale, which is often ineffective in terms of social marketing but it could create social capital in the community, as they put emphasis on the collective problem instead of on the differences between people. Even though the campaign’s education and training features were more specific targeted programs.
The general idea of this campaign was taken from the Victorian Government campaign created by George Patterson Y&R. The idea is simple “black ballons” being filled by greenhouse gas coming out of the electronic devices at home. Using the “black ballon” as a device to represent 50 grams carbon pollution, they gave a tangible mesure and make people visualize an apparently invisible problem, this creates and strong visual appeal and generates different emotional triggers. First because it’s happening in your home, what makes a connection to your everyday life and creates a sense of responsability. Second, because they are black and they are increasing what can trigger fear and at the same time a sense of urgency.
The call for action is relatively effective, many actions are simple and incite people to act without a negative spillover because the campaign was part of a comprehensive program that used different tools such as education and training to make people understand that their little actions are important for the community, for the future generations and for the world. They took into account the financial incentive that could work for some part of the population but they didn’t focus on it. They focused in the social norms and values, which are important components for sustainable development and long-term results.
The Victorian campaign was adapted based on research about its effectiviness, the main changes were the following terms: ‘Carbon pollution’ instead of ‘greenhouse gas’, ‘environment’ instead of ‘climate change’ and ‘power’ instead of ‘energy’. An interesting feature of NWS campaign was that the main idea behind was to create an “integrated program aimed to change knowledge, attitudes and behavior, and influence social norms through a range of tools”. They tried to focus in “the ‘rules’ a group uses to determine appropriate/inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, which is powerful because regulate acceptance and popularity in group.” This approach let us think that they were trying to overcome the limitations of social marketing creating a value-based campaign with a deep framing that really engage public in climate change.
The campaign used different channels of information such as TV, digital, outdoor, radio and print. The campaign website included an interactive feature that allow people to measure and commit with actions to reduce the number of balloons they produce.
According to the Strategic Communications Site of NSW Government, the media research techniques applied by the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW to know the impacts and evaluate the awareness raised by this campaign were positive. There were high targeted audience rating points, 81% of public supported the campaign, 72% of those who saw the campaign on TV recalled at least one specific tip to save energy and awareness of installing energy saving systems such as solar panels and hot water systems doubled during the campaign period.
This campaign was broader than its Victorian predecessor; it took the most important feature, a “black balloon” as a tangible device, but was perfected in a more comprehensive strategy. The NSW Government SAVE POWER campaign intended to engage people in behaviors beyond energy efficiency appliances, target specific programs, support participation in other Energy Efficiency Strategy activities, build synergies with existing programs and build capacity through support and training. The success to make visible the invisible in this campaign probably inspired new efforts such as the “New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions” film (A Carbon Visuals film for Environmental Defense Fund) (
SAVE POWER- WHAT CAN YOU DO IN YOUR WORLD? Successfully integrated the strengths of the Victoria Government’s Black Balloons Awareness Campaign in a more comprehensive and broader program that overcome many of the limitations of social marketing for engaging the public in climate change. The outcomes of this campaign were measurable through the campaign website and the media research tools and more important, they were focused not only in simple low-impact individual behaviors but also in a broader social context. This campaign was a good initiative to make people understand their impact in a global problem; it still used the economic incentive, which can be negative in the long-term, but it took it only as another benefit from a larger objective.