Reliant Energy Stumbles With New Outdoor Ad Campaign

ReliantI don’t know who does Reliant’s advertising. I talked to the internet, and it wouldn’t tell me. Whoever it is, the agency needs to rethink Reliant’s outdoor campaign for the new “cap and save” program. I’ve heard the radio spots. They’re good. Straightforward and simple: you lock in your price at a cap. If the price of energy goes down, so does your price; if it goes up, your price remains unchanged. So far, so good.

But now take a look at the huge billboard that went up recently on a building two blocks down Ross from D HQ. I saw it for the first time today and remarked to one of our art directors that I thought it was bad. “Can you explain it?” asked the art director. “I don’t get it.” Which is precisely my point. Unless you’re already familiar with the “cap and save” concept, this billboard is confusing. Why would you be all “Oh yeah” if prices went up? Beyond the confusing words, the double image of the woman is dull. I give it a “D-,” and it scores that high only because all the words on the billboard are spelled correctly.

(Note: for a brief time, I worked in an ad agency and created outdoor ads. The people at Nestle, no doubt, still talk about the sweet stuff I did on their behalf while employed by Publicis. What I’m getting at is, I’m an expert in this field.)


  • Enrique De La Fuente

    This ad was also in today’s paper. I don’t know how you press types call it but in the main section two entire pages.

  • Hidyhoo

    It works like this. Most people read from left to right. You read, ‘Prices go down — oh yeah,’ and the woman is smiling. Makes sense. But then comes ‘Prices go up — oh yeah,’ and the woman’s still smiling, and that doesn’t make sense. So you want to learn more to understand the paradox. The only real weakness with the billboard (as opposed to the TV and print ads) is that it doesn’t explain that paradox. Apparently, Reliant hopes that while driving and distractedly reading the billboard, you’ll also manage to dial the 866 number for more information — just before crashing your car.

    The same technique of intrigue/puzzlement applies for your argument that it’s visually dull. The ad sets up a question for the viewer: Why run the same photo twice? So you look more closely to learn why — and here comes that telephone pole again.

  • DallasTodd

    Reliant I believe is handled out of the Richards Group….

  • Capasso

    That lady in them pictures is real pretty.

  • This would have been more effective as an outdoor ad for Prozac.

  • Senor

    Why did they use a photo of Karen Carpenter for the ad?

  • If it is from the Richards Group, throw it on the same pile us SMU’s confusing Pony Arrow (Up) campaign.

  • downtown_worker

    The irony is what makes me read the smaller print for more information. And any idiot would get that “Cap and Save”, in the context of electricity, means your bill is capped at a certain amount. I agree that the photo is a little boring, but I’ve seen much worse ads.

  • Glenn Hunter

    Concept doesn’t seem all that complicated: Whether rates go up or down or sideways, you’re going to be happy with Reliant.

  • Tom

    LOL @ Senor

  • mm

    Senor is so very wrong; Capasso is right.

    Drove by this ad on Sunday, and my only thought was “wow, how perfect must that lady’s face be to endure being blown up that big”.

    And yes, I know Photoshop exists. But I want to believe.

  • I am Spartacus

    Hasn’t the ad–to a certain extent–already shown itself to be effective, as it’s generating internet inquiries as well as discussion on a wildly popular blog? Falls into the same category that drives my first grader’s behavior: any attention is good attention.

  • Don’t blame the Richards Group. The Grey Group did that billboard. The Internet has spoken!

  • ernest t bass

    Maybe they reckon that they’ve already successfully delivered their message via other media and this ad will reinforce the previous impressions.

    From a distance it looks like the r and i could use some kerning.

  • RLS

    Good arguments & analysis.

    But it doesn’t change the reality that almost NO ONE changes their electricity provider because of a billboard.

    For example: did you?

    Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

  • mike

    while we are talking about advertising, I don’t get the radio commercial that is running now for Bullseye BBQ sauce that implies that if I don’t choose their sauce then I probably like boys.

    How big of a target market is the nth level homophobe who is insecure in his choice of bbq sauce?

  • Don in Austin

    Reliant generation is S by SE of Dallas at Lake Limestone, pretty much directly upwind most of the time. Why not, “You breath it, why not buy it” as an ad campaign?

  • anon

    the girl in the add is Claudia Kiss. google her, she’s hot.