Hydro Ottawa distributes electricity to the National Capital Region, serving over 315,000 residential and commercial customers. The company deeply values connecting with its customer base and delivering useful energy-related tips and information. Since elementary school is the ideal venue to share lifelong lessons about energy conservation and safety, Hydro Ottawa decided to run a contest within the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board during the 2013-14 school year—and turned to gordongroup to develop it from end to end.
This project demanded the ideas and expertise of our entire team. We faced three creative challenges: content that would make conservation and safety engaging and accessible to a wide age range of students (JK to Grade 8); a memorable contest brand that would also appeal to those audiences; and strong planning and resources that would earn teachers’ buy-in.
Together, we came up with a dynamic, kid-friendly concept—“Bright Ideas”—and a colourful cast of illustrated characters that would bring the contest brand to life. Hydro Ottawa hoped to engage not only young students but their families in the conversation about safety and conservation, so we based the contest around worksheets filled with facts, tips and activities to be completed at home with the help of parents. Our junior level (JK to Grade 4) worksheet featured an art activity area, while the senior (Grades 5 to 8) worksheet offered a simple home energy audit table.
We packaged these worksheets into a teacher’s toolkit that also included the contest curriculum and rules, as well as illustrated participation boards to be printed and posted in classrooms. The contest was set to launch in late fall and conclude on Earth Day (April 22, 2014); the long timeframe allowed teachers to introduce the contest when it fit best into the school year. The top 10 classes with the highest student participation rates in each of the two age groups were entered into a draw to win prizes. Hydro Ottawa coordinated outreach to the schools themselves.
The centerpiece was the Bright Ideas contest website, to be housed within the Hydro Ottawa corporate site. Our digital team developed an interactive platform for both students and teachers, including online games and a digital app version of the home energy audit, so students could conduct the audit using a mobile device while touring their homes. The teachers’ section made all of the materials educators would need to run the program in their classrooms available to download.
The Bright Ideas contest was logistically challenging—because there were so many materials involved, changes tended to create a domino effect. But we met the challenge handily and delivered a very successful school program. The client hailed Bright Ideas as a smashing success, with a huge turnout of over 330 students from OCDSB schools participating. The “red carpet” prize awards event was great exposure for the contest and for Hydro Ottawa’s education mandate, with extensive media coverage. The plan is now to run Bright Ideas annually.