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The Best Creative Idea of the Year?

There will be no shortage of great ideas vying for attention at this month’s Cannes Creativity Festival. But I’l be rooting for one in particular. Forsman & Bodenfors’ energy saving experiment for E.ON.

The campaign has made more than one list of Cannes favorites and has already picked up a gold pencil at One Show. So it will probably make some noise in France and take home a gold or silver lion for sure, and possibly even a bigger prize.

I hope it does. For the simple reason that it might inspire the kind of work we need more of from advertising agencies, be they rooted in digital, traditional or a combination of the two.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s pretty simple. It’s a campaign for E.ON’s Swedish subsidiary that encourages people to reduce energy consumption not with a vapid advertising campaign but rather with utility that combines user participation, personal data, mobile, gaming, and the Internet of Things. It shows customers their energy use in real time, their savings when they take specific action, and their standing visa vis their neighbors.

If that’s not enough contemporary marketing buzzwords checked off by this one application, there’s also evidence of iterative testing and crowd sourcing, all in the name of conscious capitalism. Whether or not E.ON is as worthy a company as this campaign suggests is another story, but for these purposes let’s stay focused on the creative.

Partnering with Maingate, a Swedish company that tailors technologies for smart homes, Forsman and Bodenfors worked with E.ON to recruit 10,000 homes to use an app that monitored energy consumption for an entire year. The app visualized usage in multiple ways — money being spent, battles among participants, an aggressive coach who implored you to perform better, and a tomagotchi whose life depended on your willingness to reduce your footprint — so that users could find the one most motivating to them.

A companion site let users track their progress, compare themselves to others with similar sized homes, and monitor the collective gains of an entire country. Users could share what worked for them, garner insights from each other, and create a story worthy of attention from the press, bloggers and social media communities.

In the end, the 10,000 users reduced their energy use by 12 percent.

We all know that the future of advertising and marketing is less about messages and pleas and more about inspiration. Yet inducing change, as we’ve learned from failed attempts to stop drunk driving, smoking, obesity, drug consumption, texting while driving is incredibly hard. It takes design thinking like this. And a belief in ideas that do, that involve, and that invite participation in order to achieve something worthwhile.

Sadly, most agencies won’t think this way until someone else wins a big award first. Then the race will be on. That’s why I’m hoping E.ON’s energy saving experiment wins big.


Above a TV spot that was part of the campaign.


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