Paying more ain’t bull, says frog

Will people buy into Bullfrog Power's 'Pay more for energy' proposition?

It ain’t cheap being green.
Toronto-based renewable electricity provider Bullfrog Power recently launched its first national ad campaign, extolling the virtues of higher-priced power.
“Pay More for Energy” aims to sell people on Bullfrog’s service offering and start a conversation about how the costs of conventional energy sources like fossil fuels are artificially cheap. Now active in six provinces (B.C., Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I.) Bullfrog felt Earth Week in April was the right time to bring that dialogue to the national stage.
“Now, more than ever, it’s important for individuals to lead, to make change at a personal level, whether it’s at home or their business,” says Bullfrog president Tom Heintzman. “If we can get people thinking about the real cost of energy, that moves the agenda forward.”
Developed by Toronto-based John St., Bullfrog’s radio and first-ever TV ads depict people explaining why they’re happy to pay more for energy, and print, online and OOH feature the tagline and a smiling frog. It all drove to, a Facebook page housing video testimonials by consumers and a discussion paper about why renewable energy costs what it does.
We asked Brian Howlett, CCO at Toronto-based Agency59 and Richard Seres, VP marketing of Vancouver-based Vancity, to tell us whether they think Bullfrog’s effort will galvanize more green thinking or simply croak. 

The positioning

Howlett: Love the proposition. “Pay more for energy” is bold, provocative and predisposes me to listen to their argument. It’s smartly self-selecting: their target is those who can afford to, and are prepared to, pay a premium for a cleaner conscience.

Seres: If the definition of an effective positioning solely rests on the criteria “is this unique?” well, check. The message will get noticed, but the evidence is against having it resonate.  Recently, a poll by TD Canada Trust [found] that 72% of Canadians are willing to pay more for an environmentally-friendly house and of these, 77% said that cost savings on energy bills is a main motivation (compared to 65% in 2008).  People are increasingly seeing cheaper energy as the “prize” for their investments in creating efficiency. If the campaign aims at targeting the mainstream, they probably have missed the mark.

The creative elements

Howlett: The transit ads worked for me. I was struck by the proposition juxtaposed against the happy, smiley frog.
The TV is a disappointment. These spots would be more at home as videos populating their Facebook page. Where’s the frog? I’m not getting the whimsy that the print brings to the brand. Same goes for the radio. I wish they had taken the core proposition and, rather than simply explaining what it means, milk that stopping power.

Seres: They’re clearly going for a gritty, honest type of message through the TV ads.  But they missed the mark for me because they feel so slick. The promises they’ve chosen to focus on also feel lofty and are missing a sense of transparency one would expect from an environmental energy company. By little old me paying more for my electricity each month, will I really have an impact? Bullfrog is working against major conservation messages that consistently tell us the best way to save the environment is to use less vs. pay more.

The timing

Howlett: I get that the campaign is coinciding with Earth Hour and Earth Week, and that these events are gaining traction with the public. But as a consumer of energy, I’m also more likely to reconsider my options in the fall as my home energy costs fall off my radar in the spring.

Seres: The environment has become such a mainstream issue for people today that the idea of an Earth Hour or Earth Week seems woefully inadequate. Times have changed and consumer focus on the environment isn’t confined to any timing window. Timing the media to generate a more cost-effective buy might have been a
better alternative. 

The creds

advertiser: Bullfrog Powe
agency: John St.
creative directors: Angus Tucker, Stephen Jurisic
copywriter: Jennifer Rossini
art director: Stuart Campbell