Carol H. Williams Breaks CPUC Ad

African American-Targeted Spot Outlines Calif. Utility Deregulation
SAN FRANCISCO-Carol H. Williams Advertising has launched its first TV spot for the California Public Utilities Commission as part of a $73.5 million ad campaign designed to educate consumers about the upcoming deregulation of investor-owned utilities.
The Oakland, Calif.-based agency is creating the campaign’s work targeted toward California’s African American community. The general market TV effort, which broke statewide in October, was created by DDB Needham’s Los Angeles office and features the tagline, “Knowledge is power” (Adweek, Oct. 20).
The first 30-second spot from Carol H. Williams features that tagline delivered by an animated character, “Electric Man.” The spot opens with a shot of an empty wall socket. The camera zooms inside and follows the length of a wire–the “Electric Express”–that is surrounded by shimmering colors and flashes of light. Electric Man leaps from the wire as an outline of light and quickly turns into a three-dimensional character. He booms, “We’re electrons. . . we bring you power!”
Electric Man briefly outlines key points about power deregulation, as household appliances are encircled by spinning rays of neon light. He then invites Californians to “get the knowledge,” providing an 800 number.
“Our focus groups perceived [the CPUC] to be this big, overpowering governmental entity that is. . . a predator,” said Carol Williams, agency chairwoman and creative director. “So we chose animation to show the strength and brilliance of electrical power while bringing a humanity and warmth to this service.
“Electricity is organic and inorganic, and it’s the basis of our lives,” she added. “It made sense to bring it to life and have it speak to you.”
The spot was so well-received by the CPUC that it approved funding for another 30-second TV spot for January, according to Williams. The shop will create supporting outdoor and print work in 1998. Radio spots featuring Electric Man were launched statewide earlier this month.