Energy campaign spins green into gold

Jeff Daniels Account Supervisor | September 14, 2017

Westar Energy and Callahan recently won top honors in Chartwell’s 2017 Best Practices Awards and the 2017 E Source Utility Ad Awards. Below is a case study – featuring examples of the work and results – for the Renewable Future campaign, which won Chartwell’s Gold Communications trophy and first place in the E Source digital campaign category.


The Problem

When it comes to our electric utility company, most of us only think about it when we pay our bill or when the power goes out. Let’s face it, those are not the kinds of experiences that build positive brand attitudes. Additionally, Westar Energy faced negative customer sentiment driven by rate hikes and overall cynicism toward the industry. Research showed that opinions of the company were greatly influenced by outside sources—like watchdog and special interest groups, news outlets and social media—rather than consumers’ own personal experiences with the company. On top of that, a significant portion of the existing customer base (over 40%) had “no opinion” of the company overall.

It was clear that many customers seldom considered their relationship with Westar and were unaware of the good things the company does while balancing and meeting demands of customers, shareholders and legislators. At the same time, renewable energy had become a top-of-mind issue for consumers and many businesses. While Westar was growing its renewable power generation, consumers were not aware of it. 

Multi-Chapter Storytelling Approach

To address this, we partnered with Westar to develop an integrated marketing strategy to increase overall consumer awareness of the company’s renewable energy generation and increase overall consumer brand sentiment, targeted at ages 25-64, with digital media targeted at a zip-code level.

Primary target audience: All existing Westar customers and potential future customers.

Secondary objective: Influence the over 40% of existing customers who had neither a negative nor positive view of Westar’s renewable efforts or innovation.

It was important to tell Westar’s story in a way that showed both the people behind the brand and the communities across the service territory that benefit from the company’s efforts. This wasn’t about power plants, service trucks, or lines of power poles, it was about something bigger—showing what renewable energy means for individual Kansans.

We created a multi-chapter storytelling approach, dividing the calendar year into three marketing windows:

Each window’s story combined emotionally appealing and visually compelling video story content, with more rational/functional static and animated facts, and stats and figures content, creating a series of small, digestible sound bites of key consumer takeaway messages brought to life in the following channels:

• Online display sites and pre-roll video geo-targeted to Westar’s coverage area. Placements were within news, weather and lifestyle content on local and national journalism-focused sites.

• A cinema spot ran in key markets throughout Westar’s territory. (see above)

• The corporate website, which featured long-form video and blog-style articles that reinforced key sound bites.

• Outdoor advertising placed in the three largest markets across the state, featuring nine boards along high-traffic highways.

• Social media content targeted to customers within Westar’s territory.

This shift from a more traditional media mix to an integrated mix with a heavier digital and social play resulted in a 31% lower media spend and 97% more impressions, as compared to the previous year’s campaign.

Measurement & Results

This integrated multi-channel strategy was cost-effective and created an “always on” feeling across multiple consumer touch points.

The goal: Increase overall consumer awareness of Westar’s renewable energy generation and increase overall consumer brand sentiment. Here are the two statements we needed customers to understand:

  • Westar is working to generate electricity from renewable sources.
  • Westar understands future energy needs and is preparing for them.

The results speak for themselves:

Multiple measures revealed that campaign content beat industry benchmarks in ad likability and brand favorability, while generating measurable lift across both key brand-awareness benchmarks.

Westar’s humanized stories, combined with digestible, informative soundbites educated and informed customers while reducing cynicism and improving brand favorability and sentiment. (The Facebook sentiment scores are below.)


Screenshot 2017-09-12 13.09.13

The Renewable Future campaign has taken top honors in the Communications category in Chartwell’s 2017 Best Practices Awards and the Digital Streaming Content category of the 2017 ESource Utility Ad Awards.

The 60-second wind energy cinema spot was also named a top-five finalist in Chartwell’s People’s Choice category, which recognizes outstanding creative achievement in short video marketing/communications efforts. Attendees of Chartwell’s EMACS Customer Experience Conference in Phoenix, Arizona will select the top video at a luncheon on Oct. 12.

To see more examples of the breadth of media Callahan produced for the Renewable Energy campaign, check out our work page.

To find out more about how Callahan is changing the way utilities are viewed, contact President/CEO Chris Marshall at (785) 838-4774 or




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