SmartPower Taps Crowd Power in $10,000 Video Contest

According to non-profit marketing organization SmartPower, even though 80 to 90 percent of the public agrees that energy from renewable sources is better than energy produced from fossil fuels, and they are willing to pay $5 or $10 more per month for that energy, the market penetration of renewable energy products still remains below 5 percent. The company aims to change that by researching exactly what barriers consumers face when they are considering a clean energy or energy efficiency purchase, and then combining innovative marketing campaigns with grass-roots action to overcome these barriers.

SmartPower’s latest campaign is the Energy Smart Ad Challenge, offering a $10,000 prize for the best 30-second Public Service Announcement (PSA) promoting how young adults can save money by being Energy Smart through energy efficiency and conservation. The 10 finalist videos were posted on YouTube Friday, and viewers are invited to comment on how well the videos “speak to young people about being energy smart.” Each day, one video will be eliminated from the competition, presumably with the viewer input weighing heavily in the decision. As of this writing, the video titled “Generation”, (posted at the top of this article), was far and away the viewers’ favorite.


This type of competition is a form of crowd-sourcing that has been used very effectively by a number of organizations to engage their target audiences very deeply with the organization’s message, by having them generate the message for themselves. The company usually provides the tools and/or guidelines, and the audience creates the content. Sometimes this is taken even further by having the customer design the product as well.

Although this has been quite effective for many companies, including Doritos, HP, JetBlue and MasterCard, it has backfired in a few cases. As Chevrolet found out the hard way, companies attempting to implement a crowd-sourced advertising campaign must do their research, and make sure that their customers have a positive image of the company and its products, otherwise the audience will likely hijack the campaign to vent frustrations.

In general, crowd-sourced marketing campaigns have several advantages over traditional marketing: lower costs, a higher return on investment, closer engagement with the customer base, and, in many cases, a higher quality advertisement or product than would be produced by professionals. It makes sense for an organization like SmartPower to use a strategy like this, since it affords the company to compete with marketing giants such as Doritos, with much larger budgets than a small non-profit would have.

Tell us which SmartPower ad is your favorite in the comments!

Around the Web:

Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business by Jeff Howe (

Want Obama Girl? Save Your Energy! (

Energy Trust of Oregon: Solar Incentive Research Study ( PDF)

Amazon Crowdsources TV Ad Campaign (

Chevy’s ‘Make Your Own Tahoe Commercial’ idea not exactly going as planned (, 2006)

Crowdsourced Advertising: How We Outperform Madison Avenue (


Steve Puma is a sustainability and technology consultant. He currently writes for 3p as well as on his personal blog, ThePumaBlog, about the intersection of sustainability, technology, innovation, and the future. Steve holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School and a BA in Computer Science from Rutgers University. You can contact Steve through email or LinkedIn, or follow him on twitter.

Steve Puma is a sustainable business consultant and writer.Steve holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School and a BA in Computer Science from Rutgers University. You can learn more about Steve by reading his blog, or following his tweets.

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