Video contest fuels interest in Drive Smarter Challenge

The Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) executed its Drive Smarter Challenge 2009, a program aimed at reducing US gas consumption amid circumstances that were notably different from 2008.

Client: Alliance to Save Energy (Washington, DC)
Agency: See3 Communications (Chicago)
Campaign: Drive Smarter Challenge 2009
Duration: May-November 2009
Budget: $200,000 (including labor)

The Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) executed its Drive Smarter Challenge 2009, a program aimed at reducing US gas consumption amid circumstances that were notably different from 2008.

Rozanne Weissman, senior director of consumer campaigns, says the effort faced reduced funding (one-fifth of 2008), fewer partners, higher expectations due to the previous campaign's success, and lower gas prices.

"We wanted an element to break through the clutter affordably," Weissman says. "We needed a 'wow' factor."

Strategy
Weissman reemployed successful elements of the 2008 campaign, including the Web site, five PSAs, and partnerships with entities such as NASCAR, ExxonMobil, and the American Petroleum Institute (API).

A national video contest was a "shot in the arm" for the 2009 effort, helping attract younger audiences and engage partners, who would donate prizes, act as judges, and help promote it.

Tactics
Dovetailing with Energy Awareness Month in October, the contest ran from August 17 to October 19. It required entrants to use the ASE's conservation tips in the videos. The entries were posted on Drivesmarterchallenge.org.

Chicago-based firm See3 Communications created a contest microsite and produced a promotional video for the contest. It also helped drive coverage on contest Web sites.

The campaign was supported by 17 partners through individual marcomms tools and events. For example, NASCAR did promotion on its weekly radio program. ExxonMobil and the ASE promoted "Energy Efficiency Day" on July 26 at a Washington Nationals game.

Partners got toolkits that included customizable press releases and Web site banners. Media outreach was broad, covering travel, auto, personal finance, and consumer and lifestyle sectors. The contest was also promoted at film schools.

Weissman optimized tie-ins to travel news, holidays, and what she calls 2009's "frugality trend." Four contest winners were announced in October and "promoted heavily."

The 2008 PSAs were circulated and the ASE's president and API's chief economist conducted an RMT.

The Web site was linked to the ASE's existing Facebook and Twitter pages, where the contest and overall program were also touted. Partners used their social media presence to spread the word, and ASE staffers were encouraged to use personal social media pages.

Results
Sixty-five eligible videos were submitted. From August 17 to October 19 site traffic rose 51%, compared to the same time last year. Site traffic was also up 21% compared to the three months prior to the contest launch.

"We feel we couldn't have gotten the traffic increases without the contest," Weissman says.

Since the May 2008 program launch, the site has attracted 185,766 total visitors, with 54,240 taking the challenge. Since mid-May 2009, a coupon for Mobil 1 motor oil has been downloaded 9,095 times.

The 2009 effort generated 15 million-plus print media impressions. The RMT reached 8 million listeners via 6,395 stations, including CNN Radio.

The campaign was mentioned on 650 sites and blogs, including smartmoney.com. Indy race team and new sponsor Bryan Herta Autosport generated the most Web coverage, including placement on indycar.com.

The ASE's Facebook page reached 1,054 fans and 750 Twitter followers. Weissman says her personal tweets drew 665 hits to the video Web site.

Future
Weissman says the ASE is raising funds for a home/vehicle energy saving campaign this year. Drive Smarter will be part of it. Wells Fargo became the first partner in January

PRWeek's View
Weissman and her team did a tremendous job of adapting and reinvigorating interest and participation, despite the shift in circumstances. Gasoline issues weren't top of mind for most consumers last year, and though the strength of the 2008 program's infrastructure was an asset, the 2009 effort could easily have fallen flat without thoughtful and persistent outreach. The contest was beneficial all around, helping to spread key messages, reinforce existing collateral, broaden audience base, and engage partners.

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