Save your energy: Marketers tout conservation

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Responding to public sentiment in the wake of soaring gas prices, marketers of all stripes are pitching energy conservation and efficiency in their marketing messages.

Conservation was once almost the exclusive domain of oil companies and utility companies and fuel efficiency that of autos, but both are now coming into play for other advertisers such as lawnmower companies. And as winter approaches and the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts the price of residential natural gas used for heating will skyrocket more than 42% this year over last, marketing experts say Americans are ready to listen.

High oil prices, buoyed by Hurricane Katrina, "really triggered" consumers' change in attitude, said Bruce Hall, a former oil-industry executive and now research director at independent shop Howard, Merrell & Partners, Raleigh, N.C. Before that, "Americans really weren't paying that much attention."

In the oil arena, BP was among the first to highlight alternative energy in ads with its "Beyond Petroleum" corporate campaign that started in fall 2001 from WPP Group's Ogivly & Mather, Chicago. It's now been joined by Chevron, which broke a "Real Issues" campaign late last month aimed at raising awareness about energy usage and new solutions. The TV, outdoor and print ads from WPP's Y&R, New York, are complemented by Web site will youjoinus.com, which encourages visitors to join in energy discussions and features a fast-moving meter measuring the world's oil and gas consumption.

"Right now, with supplies so tight because of the refineries out, the oil companies have an incentive to get people to conserve," said Mr. Hall.

Energy-saving messages are also coming from unexpected places. Grasshopper Mowers, in a brochure from independent Associated Advertising, Wichita, Kan., is pitching the fact that its diesel engine is more efficient than gasoline engines, resulting in a savings of $3,000 per 1,000 hours of use.

In California, the world's third-largest solar-energy market, after Japan and Germany, Sharp Electronics Corp. is touting its solar systems in print and radio and highlighting a multiyear deal with the San Francisco Giants inked this summer to power club offices adjacent to SBC Park.

State effort

The state itself is dialing up its $20 million annual "Flex Your Power" blitz encouraging energy conservation and by adding a "Flex Your Power at the Pump" message to drive less in ads from WPP Group's Grey Worldwide, Los Angeles.

Northern California's Pacific Gas & Electric Co. will be putting heavier spending behind its conservation ads in the coming months in light of an expected natural gas shortage this winter, a spokesman said. Independent Venables, Bell & Partners, San Francisco, handles the effort.

Even the U.S. arm of little-known French Areva, a service supplier to electricity producers globally, has started a U.S. newspaper and TV blitz from Havas' Euro RSCG, New York, touting more efficient nuclear energy.

Nonprofits are weighing in, too. The Advertising Council is expanding its 18-month-old "Energy Hog" public service announcements urging children to conserve energy at home with a new outdoor and print version aimed at families from Omnicom Group's Tracy Locke, Dallas, to begin early next year.

The Alliance to Save Energy in Washington continues to offer broadcast PSAs that began in July using a lighthearted approach with super-heroes bungling attempts to be energy efficient. But for the first time, the group is also chasing young consumers with an online "Super Powers" blitz at projectssuperpowers.com, said Rozanne Weissman, marketing and communications director, that looks like a secret laboratory conducting experiments. WPP's Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, Washington, handles.

Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo

Heating up

As winter approaches, it’s predicted the price of residential natural gas used for heating will skyrocket more than 42%

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