Branding from Context Creative re-energizes peaksaver PLUS program for Hydro One

Case Study by Cate Jevons RGD, Principal at Context Creative


Launched to the market in 2007, the peaksaver PLUS® program targets residential customers with central air conditioning, providing the option for Hydro One to remotely cycle down their air conditioner during times of peak demand to reduce load on the system. Customers are typically offered an incentive to enrol.


In 2014, Hydro One engaged Context Creative to introduce a new incentive – an energy display – to breathe new life into a stale program. The energy display glows different colours as electricity prices change throughout the day, providing customers with valuable information about their energy consumption. With many previous peaksaver PLUS® campaigns marketed to these customers over several years, our goal was to make this offer stand out in enticing, new ways and engage customers who hadn’t signed up for the program.




With more than 20 years of experience in the energy sector in Ontario, Context Creative has a unique depth of understanding of it and its evolution. As standard practice, we worked closely with our client to ensure a common understanding of the project from the outset, including brand considerations, key messages, desired functionality, timelines and budgets. We always provide firm quotes in advance, based on defined deliverables on a per-project basis.


As our first step in creating this particular campaign, we conducted a review of market factors and trends related to the rise of home automation and monitoring products, such as the Nest thermostat. We shared these insights with our client and used the research and subsequent feedback to inform our overall strategic direction and design concepts. We were also able to utilize insights from earlier research commissioned from Environics, which segments residential customers by demographic and psychographic characteristics as well as preferred media channels.


Our client was involved in the earliest research phase, commissioning and providing data to Environics. Hydro One's marketing manager then created a brief describing the new offer, the sub-set of customers we needed to reach and the details of the peaksaver program. With this we were able to propose a path for design development, a budget for creative, production and fulfilment and a schedule.



For this campaign, we targeted a subset of “average” Hydro One customers, creating imagery and messages that would appeal to them. This subset consisted of rural Ontario families with the following characteristics:

  • Hyper-rational – they make decisions based on logic (i.e., Why waste energy, if you don’t have to?)
  • Strong family values – imagery of families in their home resonates with this audience
  • Time-stressed – they are reassured by convenience and ease of use (show me exactly what I need to know)
  • Financial concerns for the future – “an easy way to save” is a key message for this audience

As energy conservation tends to be a low priority for many, we focused on boosting the perceived value, desirability and lifestyle appeal rather than focus on the energy data display benefits. Evocative photography enhanced the visual appeal by showcasing the colourful glow of the device. We gave the energy display a personable name to create a sense of character. ‘Joule’ speaks in a friendly, conversational tone throughout the campaign. The story unfolds in an engaging multi-fold brochure, with Joule offering helpful advice to make saving energy an easy and approachable part of everyday life.


We also developed two videos to better engage our customers and demonstrate the benefits of Joule. The first video provided high-level information about the offer while the second video delved into practical information about the device itself. Print materials encouraged customers to visit the website and watch the videos.


For the first video, we used live-action footage of families doing common household chores to help customers better understand how the energy display can be incorporated into every day life:



The second video included playful graphic animation and friendly voiceover to explain in simple, helpful language, how easy the energy display is to use and how and when it can be used around the home:



The Joule campaign was introduced to the market in April 2014, and again from June to December 2014, with an initial direct mail, two postcards and a second direct mail piece.


In creating this campaign and others, we strive to work in the most environmentally-friendly way possible, both internally and with clients. We share information electronically and often present concepts digitally or share screens via GoToMeeting and other online services. Changes are increasingly managed through commented PDF documents, eliminating the need for printouts. We work with printers who are FSC-certified and specify FSC paper stocks.


Accessibility was also a guiding factor in our typographic choices and use of colour. We kept messages and graphics as clear and concise as possible while balancing corporate design standards and cost-effective print and distribution needs.



As we developed the materials, we were cognizant of Ontario’s delicate political climate and the media attention around rising electricity rates. Establishing trust with customers was paramount and we were aware of the importance of producing cost-effective materials that, while eye-catching, would not be perceived as extravagant or wasteful.


Other challenging parameters for this campaign included the requirement to target a highly segmented audience, keeping it hidden to most Hydro One customers. We encountered issues with accuracy of the mailing lists and the fact that the program had been in market for many years and was considered saturated.



Our results are measured based on the number of enrolments in the peaksaver PLUS® program. Each piece of direct mail is printed with a unique enrolment code to track customer sign ups. Customers would receive the direct mailing with a call to action to enrol in the Joule program on a hidden site. We were then able to track enrolment and engagement with the campaign through the hidden site, and by the unique enrolment codes.


Hydro One had a target of 2,400 sign ups for the Joule campaign in 2014. As of December 31, 2014, there were 4,005 enrolments, exceeding the target by 67%. Based on 125,843 customers targeted, this campaign realized a 3% response rate, significantly higher than the historic 0.7% response rate. Hydro One considers the campaign so successful that they are rolling out the offer to the rest of their eligible customer base.


The web landing page, accessed through a unique URL on the printed direct mail piece, saw nearly 7,000 unique views throughout the campaign with an average time of 4 minutes spent on the page – 4 times longer than on the rest of the site. Our videos (available only late in the year) received nearly 400 views.


Customer response to the program was enthusiastic. One customer even wrote a poem about their experience:

T’was the week before Christmas and all through the cottage
The family stared at the JOULE and the use of the voltage
OH! they exclaimed. What ever does this mean?
All that energy to get the dishes clean?
TV, washing machine, electric kettle and more
Better use at “off peak” or costs will soar
So thanks to the wonder of the long awaited JOULE
Excess hydro use no more or we will consider ourselves a fool.


According to the Vicky Sipidias, Strategy and Conservation at Hydro One: “We couldn’t be happier with the results of the Joule campaign. By incorporating audience insights right from the start, the creative delivered on all fronts – clear messaging, compelling visuals and effective targeting. Even with challenging marketing parameters, the campaign managed to refresh a tired program and set the benchmark for a new year of customer engagement.”


The campaign won two awards at the 2014 Summit International Awards: Gold in the Consumer Direct Marketing category and Gold in the Consumer Product / Service category. 



Designer Takeaways

  1. An integrated approach to strategy, strong design, evocative use of photography, compelling copywriting and a carefully targeted marketing plan are key to delivering a campaign that surpassed business targets.
  2. Tracking the effectiveness of campaigns, quantifying and qualifying results and continually fine-tuning tactics is essential for communicating the value of design and key to maximizing client returns on their investment.
  3. While we bring absolute passion to the communications programs we create, we believe that a significant part of our value to our clients is our attentive and pro-active account administration and project management. For every assignment, we assign a dedicated Project Manager who understands the design process, the business needs of our client and the absolute importance of budgets and timelines.


Client Takeaways

  1. A project's success depends on how well content can be applied and accessed across all media. In today’s fast-paced world, it is important to identify a creative partner who can create, manage and utilize communications assets across various media to achieve the goals of a project.
  2. A deep understanding of the market and what you hope to achieve is essential for starting a project off on the right foot. In this project, early involvement in the research phase and a clear brief explaining the details of the campaign and the specific audience being targeted helped lay the foundation for an effective and efficient design process. 



Lionel Gadoury RGD, Principal, Director of Creative Services was the creative lead; Cate Jevons RGD, Principal, Director of Client Services heads studio operations and the project management team. Context currently has 20 employees on staff and serves approximately 30 clients.



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