Media Plan of the Year: Best Use of Radio – Hoffman York

To drive home the message of energy conservation in Wisconsin, agency Hoffman York went straight to Nashville. The agency, winner of this year’s Mediaweek Plan of the Year/Best Use of Radio, bought two-minute spots featuring a catchy, original pop-country tune, “The Power is Within You”—produced by Hoffman York in the Tennessee music capital—to promote the Wisconsin Department of Administration Division of Energy’s Focus on Energy partnership. The spots were part of a $2 million multimedia campaign created by the agency that also included spot TV and local cable. The campaign—whose goal was to “encourage energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy, enhance the environment and ensure the future supply of energy for Wisconsin,” according to the agency—was launched in July of last year.

The warm-and-fuzzy words of the mid-tempo, guitar-infused number—penned by Hoffman York associate creative director Kevin Brandt and reminiscent of some of the radio-friendlier hits of Alabama, Hootie and the Blowfish and Fleetwood Mac—are at the same time inspirational and sentimental:

You can change your world, it only takes a moment

If you stop to think about what your actions mean

Build a future for your children, learn lessons from the past

Think hard about tomorrow, do you know what it will bring?

There’s a new day dawning, a chance to start over

Discover what we never knew

You can change the world, the power is within you.

Apparently, Wisconsinites got the message—the agency reported a 20 percent bump in awareness of Focus on Energy by year’s end, and traffic to the partnership’s Web site jumped 33 percent. Besides the DOA’s Division of Energy, organizations involved in Focus on Energy include the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp., the Milwaukee School of Engineering, the Energy Center of Wisconsin and PA Consulting Co.

Encouraging individuals and businesses to conserve energy—admittedly an important issue, but not exactly the sexiest—wasn’t the easiest task, says John Verre, managing partner at Hoffman York and account director of Focus on Energy: “Traditionally, it’s not a high-interest category on people’s list. Energy conservation has been around forever.”

Even more discouraging, in its research the agency found that more than 70 percent of Wisconsinites polled assumed they had already done their part toward energy savings—just because they took some action in the past like turning down a thermostat or installing insulation. “We wanted to try to bring to life the idea of energy conservation, [connect it to] social responsibility,” Verre explains. “We wanted to say, ‘If you’ve done things in the past, there’s a lot more you can do for the state of Wisconsin, for you and for your children.'”

Hoffman York launched the campaign with three weeks of radio ads in 6 markets and 35 stations throughout the state. The campaign reached nearly 60 percent of listeners in the state’s largest market, Milwaukee, and nearly half of listeners in Madison, the agency reports. Other markets that got the spots were Appleton/Oshkosh, Eau Claire, Green Bay and Wausau/Stevens Point.

The beauty of the campaign theme song was, not only was it a bona fide toe-tapper, but its adult-contemporary sound made it a natural for a range of radio formats, from Top 40 to rock to country to easy-listening. “It could play anywhere, except maybe a classical station,” says Mike Oelhafen, vp/associate media director at Hoffman York and media director for Focus on Energy.

Placement was the key, and running up to the launch the team at Hoffman York interviewed dozens of programming executives to figure out how best to position the spots. “We needed to think of ourselves as programming directors versus media buyers,” Oelhafen explains.

As a result, the media plan avoided morning drive, where the Focus on Energy message threatened to get lost in the mind-numbing mix of chatter and other advertiser appeals. Instead, the buy concentrated on afternoon drive, evenings and weekends.

As the three-week radio campaign progressed, the spots became increasingly ubiquitous—giving the impression, the agency hoped, that the song wasn’t merely a jingle, but a “hit” stations were playing more and more of. Hoffman York took great care to ensure that stations didn’t play “The Power is Within You” with more frequency than they would an average Top 40 hit, to avoid bombarding listeners with the spots to the point of irking them.

By the time the campaign’s TV ads, which also featured the song, appeared, all of Wisconsin was singing along. (Hoffman York president/chief creative officer Tom Jordan says the agency stopped short of actually releasing the song as a single.)

“I’ve been overseeing marketing campaigns for several years, and the idea of using a song was nothing new,” says Focus on Energy marketing and communication coordinator Barbara Samuel. “What was really interesting and intriguing was the idea of making a song that would stand on its own, instead of just being background music.” Samuel realized the song was catching on when her 12-year-old son started humming along the second time he heard it on the radio. Others told the exec they couldn’t get the song out of their heads. “I said, ‘Aw, that’s too bad,'” Samuel jokes.

Hoffman York knew they had scored a hit once radio DJ’s started talking about the song on air. “That was something we had quietly hoped for,” admits Oelhafen. “When it happened, we were pleasantly surprised.”

This wasn’t the first time the agency had success using an original song in a campaign. Jordan himself penned the ditty “You Don’t Have to Play to Win,” performed by music legend Ray Charles, to promote the Wisconsin Lottery. The exec thinks music is key to connecting with consumers. “Just try to imagine an important moment in a movie where you were not moved by the music,” he says. “If you really want to resonate with people, use music.”

Tony Case is a Mediaweek contributing writer.