Not so smart marketing: David Suzuki and the Ontario Government

I tried to steer myself away from the two topics that I blog about most (environment and marketing) but I just can’t help this one.

Usually I’m the one sticking up for David Suzuki. My friends think he’s a hypocrite (mainly for his current stance on nuclear power) or just too righteous — however, I’ll be the first to give him a slap on the back for a job well done. He’s a man with a message and he’s gone great lengths to be heard.

However…. I have some issues with his current marketing campaign.

First and foremost, why was he naked for this season’ promo for the Nature of Things? I was extremely weirded out by that. Yes, I get it; it’s the naked truth about the environment… Holding the world on your shoulders while naked like a greek god (ahem, somewhat like a greek god) eh? That’s not too righteous at all…

But anyways, that’s not what I meant to talk about.  (But haha…I just put a pic of David Suzuki naked on my blog!) I’m talking about the huge marketing campaign his foundation is doing with Powerwise. If you’re in Ontario, I’m sure you’ve seen him. He’s plastered everywhere, holding the lightbulb. Here’s just a quick excerpt from his Foundation explaining the campaign.

That’s why I volunteered for an energy-conservation ad campaign for Powerwise, a partnership between local Ontario electrical utilities and the Government of Ontario. We’ve completed two television commercials and some (not some…LOTS!) print and outdoor advertising, all of which folks in Ontario can expect to see plenty of this summer.

For the local electrical utilities, their main goal is to reduce electrical consumption and avoid brownouts, where demand for power outstrips supply. California used similar public-awareness campaigns to successfully reduce its electricity consumption. I hope Powerwise has a similar effect in Ontario.

I don’t mind the TV ads, I don’t even mind the bulletin boards, and I like the message, however, my issue is with effectiveness. Do you think TV ads, print and outdoor advertising are the most effective adverstising mediums? The sheer magnitude of this campaign must be costly. TV ads are definitely not cheap and for the amount of bulletin boards out there, I don’t know if they’re much better.

For today’s marketing to be effective, I think that you need a better mix of mediums – better put, a web 2.o mix of mediums. Keep the bulletin boards, TV ads (still need to hit the seniors and not-so tech savvy baby boomers), just lessen the amount and add some other, more interactive ads.

Why do you think the Dove Campaign has done so well? They have a great message mixed with great marketing. They’ve combined the regular advertising with social media. Their campaign was one of the most talked about advertising strategies and continues to be today.

Yet, even as all these hooks are part of the campaign, the early part of the campaign was mainly driven by TV ads, and billboard ads featuring their “real” models. Now Dove is getting smart about social media, using it to drive even more interest online in the central theme behind the entire campaign. One of the most popular videos on YouTube right now is Dove’s Evolution of Beauty, a video also posted on their website.

Especially on something so expressive as the environment, I suggest that David Suzuki and the Ontario Government get a lesson on web 2.0. There’s a lot to discuss and a lot of interactivity that can be going on. People are already doing it. Treehugger was just bought by Discovery for $10 million. (Congrats- the founder is also a Carleton grad – woo hoo!)

So Mr Suzuki, I love the message, but put some clothes on get on board with the today’s marketing:)


9 thoughts on “Not so smart marketing: David Suzuki and the Ontario Government

  1. Jay Godse says:

    Hi Jane.

    Plenty of food for though…here goes.

    The marketing is irrelevant unless there is something of value to the consumers. The fact is that environmentalists have been marketing for years (I’ve heard it since the 1970s) on the various merits of doing this and that to help the environment. Most of it is to no avail. The only reason that David Suzuki has succeeded with the compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs is because there is an easily quantifiable economic advantage to using them for the average consumer. The case has improved greatly over the last 8 years because energy prices have doubled, and because the costs, lighting quality, and form factors of compact fluorescent have become much more bearable. I switched to CF about 4 years ago because it made sense for me then even if they were too expensive. For me the convenience of not having to change 30 bulbs every year was worth it. (I now change about 4 CF bulbs per year).

    The other factor is that environmentalists tend to advocate ideas that require inconvenient changes of lifestyle (e.g. taking buses, buying hemp clothes, running the house cooler, walking, using reusable diapers & menstrual supplies…etc). Needless to say, the uptake is minimal. The CF light bulb represents a convenient change in that for a slight increase in up-front cost, a greater decrease in power costs, one gets the convenience of not having to change light bulbs as often.

    Although it is true that “the medium is the message” (Marshall McLuhan), if you want traction, you have to have a marketing message with a clearly profitable economic value proposition, and one that does not require inconvenient lifestyle changes. Suzuki did it with the CF bulbs.

    If Suzuki wants traction, here are some products/technologies that have immediate value, and no lifestyle changes:
    1) Hybrid cars and engines with load-based cylinder activation.
    2) LED-lighting – uses about 50% of the power of CF lighting and lasts even longer.
    3) Ground-source heat pumps. Canada’s real energy advantage (although it presents builders with an inconvenient change of behaviour).
    4) High-efficiency furnaces with DC fans. (Inconvenience of slightly higher up-front costs).
    5) LCD monitors for computers.
    6) Side-loading washing machines which use less energy and less water.

    None of these technologies are sexy or earth shaking, but each will deliver huge energy changes, with or without a naked Suzuki.

    As for your comment on governments getting up to speed on Web 2.0, that is very very hard. Here’s why. The old style media figures and broadcasters worked in the mode of a broadcast monologue. They craft, control, and deliver the message, and critics are disorganized and irrelevant. With Web 2.0, they lose control of the crafting and the delivery. They also risk being shown up by intelligent and articulate 20-something (or even 40-something) people making public comments. They have not figured out how to handle the loss of control.

    Web 2.0 will be the dominant mode of communication when today’s 25-35 year old journalists become the dominant media figures in 10 years.

    I’ll see you there…

  2. suzuki says:

    I think hes a hypocrite

  3. janeporter says:

    Thanks for your input suzuki. Care to elaborate?

  4. […] “naked greek gods” is another popular search term -this nicely brings up my naked David Suzuki picture […]

  5. parker says:

    how would you market this ad campaign in the Web 2.0 world?

  6. janeporter says:

    Hmmm… interesting question, haha. I was never asked before and it’s been a while since I’ve looked at this post.


    I was thinking more like a ‘join in’ kind of thing, but now that I just googled his Take the Challenge
    site and looks like he’s got some good stuff there with 364,000 ppl or so already in the community, able to connect, share stories, etc. He’s also got some blogs and videos (ex. “Queen of Green” blog etc. This all seems to be better than the power one.

    However, I do wonder about the effectiveness. Do people just sign up, perhaps forget about it, and then get monthly newsletters?

    My ideas… off the top of my head…

    It would be kind of cool if they had competitions for chic/cheeky/funny etc. video ads about what simple things can be done around the house. And then put it up for voting by the community. Or go through the schools? Kids want attention, are creative and they can pressure parents to buy eco-friendly products.

    Or, if posted the province’s energy consumption as a meter on a website and could watch it go up and down as the day went on — maybe make it so that you could see the various consumption (i.e. just households, just industry, whole thing etc.) and then instead of having the normal fundraiser-like meter of having a target at the top – have our provincial target at the bottom so that the campaigning is for lowering the red meter… (make sense or am i blabbing?)

    (who knows if this could actually be done…i have a feeling that the OPA prob wouldn’t go for it)

    but it would bring people to the site to see what consumption is really like. And then once there, there could be other videos/blogs links to other sites etc.

    The meters could also have one for a general house and then show how making simple changes (i.e. Jay’s comments above) can reduce the reading – again watching the meter go down.

    Or, once people join in to the community, they can decide if they want to be ‘known’ in that community and then they can have little get togethers within the communities.

    just ideas….

    thanks for asking:) forces me to think…


  7. parker says:

    Great suggestions! i checked suzuki’s site as well and was impressed. i didn’t notice anything on the government sites.

  8. suzukiwatch says:

    What is the point of reducing each person’s electricity consumption if we continue increasing the number of people?

    It seems that David Suzuki never proposes humanely reducing the human population because he is afraid of reducing his incoming donations from corporations.

    For more info, check out The Suzuki Watch:


    Brishen Hoff
    President of Biodiversity First

  9. Great page / I will visit once more,,

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