Given Genesis Energy is the biggest spender in the electricity sector, clocking in with a very specific $4,408,317 in the year to July according to Nielsen's AIS data, the news it was up for pitch whipped up a bit of excitement in agency land. From what we've heard, pretty much every non-conflicted man and his dog was in the room at the RFP stage, which could either be seen as an indication Genesis was testing the whole market to find the best partner or it didn't know what kind of agency it actually wanted. But reliable sources have informed us the shortlist has now been decided on, with .99, Y&R, M&C Saatchi and DraftFCB thought to be getting set to fight it out for creative duties and Spark and Naked thought to be in the running for media.
Genesis Energy's public affairs spokesman Richard Gordon wasn't saying much, aside from "we're still in the middle of the process" and "there's still a few weeks to go" before a final decision is reached. And while he confirmed a shortlist had been announced, he wouldn't divulge their names.
Because Genesis is a crown entity rather than a government department, it doesn't need to go through the bureaucratic motions of a public tender through GETS. And while there isn't quite as much acrimony over this pitch as there was over the Auckland Council pitch last year, we've heard from a few who were involved that felt there was still far too much testing of the water—and time and money-wasted by having that many agencies involved—with what one source called a "procurement-led process".
UPDATE: We've heard there were around 50 submissions handed in last Friday and one source believes there simply wasn't enough time for Genesis to check all of them thoroughly enough before a decision on the shortlist was made, which in their opinion means it was either a pre-determined outcome or a decision based on cost. DDB and OMD were originally included in the shortlist, but they've now been removed.
When we spoke with Gordon a few weeks ago he said the decision to pitch had nothing to do with the mixed-ownership model and the ensuing partial sell-down of state assets. But others we've talked to disagree and believe it was about the company's desire to find efficiencies across the business so it can spend less, improve the value of the brand (this was thought to be part of the pitch document), and lock in partners for a solid contract before it's eventually put on the block.
There is a trend towards brands offering greater utility in marketing, as evidenced by various calculators and mobile apps and, in the electricity sector, the success of Powershop, which has tried to turn power into an FMCG product. But there should be more of it. Along with the banks and the supermarkets, power companies have access to a massive amount of data about their customers, but not too many seem to use that data or the raft of digital tools now available particularly well to enhance their customer's lives—and help save them money. Thankfully, Genesis has taken a step in that direction, and recently launched an 18-month long experiment called 'Tomorrow Street', which turns "some typical New Zealand streets into the country's first advanced energy neighbourhood" and involves Colmar Brunton, Righthouse, Unitec, the University of Auckland Energy Centre and Power Technology.
"Tomorrow Street is made up of 15 households who will try out a variety of exciting new energy-saving technology—innovations that could ultimately transform the way we all use energy."
And it's offering discounts on some of that technology as well.
As it says on the website:
Creating a brighter, more sustainable future is our ultimate goal at Genesis Energy.
To get there we're focusing on innovation in a big way and finding smarter ways to help our customers manage their energy usage. That's where Tomorrow Street comes in. It's our test-bed for a variety of innovations and technology – dedicated to finding out how well they perform in real Kiwi homes.
What's going on in New Zealand's first advanced energy neighbourhood? The Tomorrow Street neighbourhood is made up of a small number of Genesis Energy customers who live near each other on Auckland's North Shore.
These Kiwi households will trial a variety of exciting new products and services, which could include the latest solar panels and home energy management systems, to Smartphone apps or an electric car – technology that can give Kiwi households smarter, easier ways to monitor and control their energy usage.
What we'll need from Tomorrow Street households. Throughout the project's 18 month duration, participating households will need to give our research partners regular feedback on how well these innovative products and services are improving their energy usage.
Their feedback is critical, because it will help us work out what's working well, or not.
What happens when the Tomorrow Street programme finishes?
The products and services that perform the best for our Tomorrow Street households could then find their way into other Genesis Energy customers' homes too.