Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bord Gais steps onto a two way street

A very interesting event on Tuesday evening. Before launching into the electricity provider fray, Bord Gais decided to talk to bloggers. Before even talking to the press, I'll have you know. They took a group of interested soc media types through the complete above-the-line campaign, created by DDFH&B and craftily titled The Big Switch.

It's a big step for the company. Their hands are tied by the Regulator in the gas market (no pun there) as to what they can charge, but in the electricity market, see, they're free to drop prices lower than the ESB. A guaranteed 10% lower, no matter how low ESB drops over the coming year.

Hence the Big Switch campaign with the lovely Lucy Kennedy. Radio, press, DM, 48s, TV... the whole nine yards of atl. It's obviously a very big deal. They're building a power plant in Cork, so they want to be firing on all cylinders (again, no pun etc). It's a radical departure and one they desperately want to get right.

Yeah, so what. Companies have big launches all the time. High profile mergers, buyouts, tryouts, new products blah blah. It seems like a good offer, they seem like good people and I don't wish failure on them, but I'm not here to shill for them either. I have gas enough as it is.

From my perspective the important so what is the bit about the bloggers. This is a company with the word Bord in the early part of its title. Suggestive of caution, perhaps, or a soup├žon of 'Get away from that newfangled DVD player or you'll burst it' technophobia. Except, my pretties, except...

Except it's not. The BG Staying Alive strategy ( I meant that one) has firmly embraced the blogging community and even has the audacity to hope (and that one) that a Twitter presence will help them in the quest for positive dialogue with socially interactive young Ireland. And guess what: so far it's working. The website is somewhat refreshing too, featuring as it does the lovely Lucy (Is she gone... bigger, or is it just me?) Kennedy.

The marketing dept of Bord Gais, very probably against the advice of many internal voices, invited bloggers into a room and showed us theirs. They asked us not to tell anyone they'd showed us theirs until they also showed the people from the papers the following day, but is this not a small measure of increasing respect from a very big Irish player? I contend, my lords and ladies, that it is. A measure of respect that I predict will reap dividends, as bloggers react kindly to being included, not patronised.

Chief BG on the night, Marketing Manager 'Barry' Nicky Doran said that as a company they did not expect to get the social media side of things right straight away. Fair fucks to him. He expected mistakes. He wasn't entirely comfortable in the space. He was being led, to a degree, by the more tech-aware members of his department, but he was willing to follow that lead. He had his full trad media package in place, he was chuffed with that, and he was ready to depart from the trad use of PR by not having any! Oh my. Instead, the dialogue with the Twits and the Bloggers would be the brave new interaction that would help to launch the Gas Board's entry proper to the all-round energy market.

Even if they make a complete fuck-up of it later on, they have certainly started in the best possible way. Pay close attention to how they manage this one, advertisers, and be anticipating questions from your own clients on the back of this move.

The ripple effect:
You can read more about it here from the man who helped get them into the idea, Damien Mulley.
Another socmedia writer, Peter Donegan, gives his consumer/blogger take on it here.

Over at Fitzy's Cloud Richard has some pre- and post teaser pics and notes that The Big Switch are running Google Adwords too.

Will Knott wrote about it here and posts some pics from the evening itself here.

More bloggers will be writing about it in the coming days, and I hope to have a breakdown of the campaign in the weeks to come.

Update: A more consumerist take on it here from Maman Poulet.

And Brand Ireland blogs on it here.


  1. they didn't engage with blogosphere to market this, they invited a handful of bloggers the day before the the launch.

    maybe next time eh.

  2. Ah lookid, you won't please all of the people all of the time. The Twittering began Feb 10th, and if you check the timelines there's some actual engagement going on there. Even involving bloggers is a forward step. I'm not saying that they've got it sussed. I'm saying they're trying. And at least they're not being furtive about it, Anon.

  3. Hey Nick, the fact that bloggers are writing about it positively is a clear sign that this has been a successful entry into the social media arena for BG. I hope they continue to use Twitter etc to deal with negative publicity as well.

  4. I'm impressed to be honest. A thoughtful approach.

  5. Hi Nick

    Nice to have met you on Wednesday at the collision course.

    I agree with Richie above, this seems to have been met with mostly positive reaction. I hope they're really successful too as it's good for consumers and the ESB needs a kick up the bum.