I’ve attended several conferences lately and found myself popping in on sessions dealing with water conservation. I’m concerned that energy gets the headlines and the regulatory pressure, but our water supply issues are also looming large and there’s not enough public education about it. At Shelton we intend to include more questions in our upcoming studies around water, as I suspect most Americans don’t know things like:
– We use more water on our lawns than we do in our homes
– A house can be plumbed so that waste water is captured and reused for lawn watering…but these brown water systems don’t meet code in some cities…even cities where there are drought issues.
Again, we’ll test on this more and begin to bring you insights and ideas. In the meantime, I was thrilled to sit in on a presentation today from JC Davis of Southern Nevada Water Authority detailing exactly the right way to do a public education campaign around water conservation. In fact, his presentation outlined the right way to do an education campaign in general, but terrific that this one is around water.
Southern Nevada has instituted mandatory watering schedules — days on which you can water and days on which you can’t. Your days differ depending on where in the service territory you live, and they differ depending on the season. Residents can also only water for a certain amount of time, and they’re supposed to adjust their Irrigation Clocks (which I assume SNWA has given to every resident) four times a year so all the watering restrictions get complied with automatically.
SNWA did their homework and learned that the guy in the house is the one in charge of setting the Irrigation Clock. And he forgets to do it. A lot. So SNWA spoke to their audience in a way they could understand: guy humor. Think Budweiser advertising. They created an ad campaign that’s very bold and funny (a little like our Vectren Avoid Bad Bill Reaction campaign, I have to say), intended to wake up a very specific, jaded guy sitting on the couch who’s only thinking about when the game’s coming on. They also ran it only where guys are watching (sports programming) and when the need was immediate — no advance planning…do it now.
A couple of the spots are posted on their web site and it’s worth a look: http://www.snwa.com/html/news_conservation_adcampaign.html
The end result? In the years when they ran more straightforward advertising — the sort of PSA approach many utilities take to be safe — they saw almost no reduction in water consumption. People simply ignored the mandates. When they targeted their audience and spoke to that audience specifically in a way that made him laugh, they saw consumption drop drastically…to the tune of billions of gallons a year. From the back of the room, the drop of the line on the graph showing the amount of water consumed pre this ad campaign and post this ad campaign literally appeared as though they cut consumption in half.
Knowing your audience and communicating with them their way wins every time.