Public Sector: Ministry of Consumer Affairs + Electricity Authority’s ‘What’s My Number’

Consumers generally have a grudging acceptance of their electricity provider, very rarely switch and largely get their power from the dominant player in the region (the main provider before competition was introduced in 1999). In fact, research showed only 12 percent of the population—the ‘Bargain Hunters’—were seeking out the best deal available on their electricity, which meant the normal market forces seen with other commodities didn’t really apply to electricity—and the providers seemed pretty happy to keep it that way.

So, to reduce some of that ‘stickiness’, The Electricity Authority, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and Consumer NZ combined forces for the What’s My Number programme, which aimed to increase retail competition by creating more informed and active electricity consumers.  

What’s new

Originally, the intention was to deliver a bog standard government information campaign. But insights showed even once consumers knew all the facts, they didn’t do anything about it. And the barriers weren’t rational, they were psychological, so the language had to be reframed around saving on electricity to get more households interested. 

Research offered four key insights: it had to create the impression that reviewing electricity suppliers was normal, rather than weird; it needed to involve one quick, simple action to get past the belief that switching was too complicated; it had to arouse a sense of curiosity and fun; and it needed to focus on the positive and show how much could be saved. 

To do this, it created a new brand, What’s My Number, and a simple new calculator that had a single-minded focus on helping consumers get their number—quickly. Once they’d taken the first step, they were much more likely to click through to the more in-depth calculator on the Consumer Powerswitch website. 


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EYHvN1cL9QThe communications strategy was built around driving action and instead of simply informing, it dangled an appealing carrot and got consumers to learn by doing. The creative idea by DraftFCB took inspiration from the party game, “Who am I?” where players wear a Post-It Note on their forehead so everyone can see the answer except the person guessing. And to combat the huge consumer apathy, it combined a mass-media approach using TV, online and outdoor, a strong PR programme that drove stories across national, regional and community media, and a focus on ‘Savvy Spenders’—those who had a strong saving mentality in other household budget areas—through the likes of daily deal websites and supermarket media. 



As evidenced by the many other prestigious local awards it has already won, the results were phenomenal, with one in four New Zealand households visiting the website. The campaign site received 397,762 unique visitors from 1 June to 31 December 2011 (the three-month target after launch on 29 May was 50,000). These visitors made 387,797 calculations, representing a potential national saving of $59.5 million (that has now increased to over 700,000 identifying potential savings of $105,350,104). 

Switching reached a record high of 43,920, a 58 percent increase over June 2010. And it’s estimated those who switched providers in 2011 following the campaign launch stood to save an estimated total of $8.7 million. Not only that, Statistics New Zealand showed a reduction of 0.3 percent and 0.5 percent in electricity prices in the September and December 2011 quarters respectively, the first time in almost 13 years there had been falls in consecutive quarters. Coincidence? We think not. 

Powershop’s Ari Sargent was quoted as saying he doubted the campaign would have much of an impact. He, like many others, was wrong. And, ranging from advertising that mimicked the campaign (Post-It notes, promises of $150 savings) to an increase in price-focused marketing by electricity providers, this campaign put the power back in the hands of the consumers and put the focus back on the price of power. 

Award: Public Sector 

Winner: The Electricity Authority, Ministry of Consumer Affairs

The partners: Consumer NZ, DraftFCB, Y&R, Citizens Advice Bureau, UMR Research, Vendor Sales Support

Judge’s comment: “They really showed great insights into the audience analysis. They really connected that with a strong idea, they used brand, they understood the connection with brand and an idea of brand was an emotive connection rather than a just a rational information message. The creative idea was very single minded and simple, which connected directly with the insight they had as well.”

Merit: Share an Idea, Christchurch City Council

In the wake of the February earthquake, the Christchurch City Council was tasked with developing the Central City Plan. Normally, the development of a project of this scale would take three years. But the government gave the City Council just nine months. And it had to achieve the highest level of positive community engagement in a short-time frame. So it went beyond a marketing and communications campaign and created Share an Idea, which was developed to create a continuous conversation with the community and led to 106,000 ideas being submitted—and analysed. 

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