When you bring advertising into a cultural celebration, the keyword is “respect.” The landscape is fraught with possible faux pas, and commercializing for the sake of it can at best leave a bad taste with your audience, and at worst can earn you some #viral #infamy.
We had an opportunity during this year’s Black History Month to do things right.
Our client, Pacific Gas & Electric, was looking for a way to engage the African-American community in its backyard around California with a tasteful, on-brand approach that helped improve the community.
PG&E is a utilities company that works to “build a better California,” provides many programs to help low-income customers and reduce strain on the Californian power grid, and simply wants to do good for goodness’ sake.
With a modest budget and the goal of generating a positive brand image while reaching African-American Californians, we set to work.
The campaign stemmed from a single key insight: While Black History Month may be a time of reflection on past struggles and celebration of America’s progress, it also is serves to bolster the community for today’s challenges and to find ways to make tomorrow better.
So what’s at the heart of tomorrow’s progress? Tomorrow’s people – students who are coming up in the community with the goal of improving not only their home, but their whole world.
The “Building a Better California” Contest
It was decided that a contest for high school students from a number of cities in southern California would be the best way to engage our audience. Students were to send in a photo and a short essay about how they help make their community a better place.
We knew it would engage both their spirit of competition and of civic responsibility, driving participation and generating authentic and inspiring content for PG&E. The drive within schools would make a new generation aware of PG&E as a positive force in California before they had to start paying energy bills themselves. Between faculty and parents of participants, this would spread to older generations as well.
Education, Technology, and Image
Without the budget for a full-blown scholarship, we did what we do best: we got creative. The prize for the contest was the next best thing: a college-ready pack of top of the line devices including a MacBook Pro, a laptop backpack, Beats headphones, and an iPad Air. Brand-new devices from popular companies stoked more participation from high school students, tying in technology, education, and personal image. The winner also got a video of them talking about their work in the community produced and shared.
Getting the Word Out
We advertised in two waves: first to let people know that PG&E was making this contest happen, and afterwards to get people to watch the video of our contest winner. We created and placed ads in local city newspapers and on social media platforms, distributed physical palm cards at the target high schools and through community organizations like the African American Arts & Culture Complex, and spread the word with the help of social media influencer Black Girls Code, which encourages STEM education and leadership for young minority women.
Across all channels, the contest and campaign generated over 700k impressions for PG&E in their coverage area, while prompting positive buzz and top-of-mind awareness for customers and their families.
Among the many qualified entries from local high school students, one stood out as a perfect example of a young person with ambition and local pride. He did simple but meaningful work for his community without anyone asking him to.
See Christian Kinnick’s story:
We couldn’t be more pleased with our winner, though it wasn’t an easy choice with so many talented entrants. We made a difference for his education, he made a difference in his community, and PG&E made a difference for California. Win-win-win for Black History Month this year.
Need to walk the line between capitalization and tastefulness? It’s a tightrope act, but luckily TDW+Co is filled with advertising gymnasts. Just get in touch with our team, and we’d be happy to show you the way.