MidAmerican Energy uses YouTube video in response to FOE television ad
The Friends of the Earth (FOE) has developed a 30 second television advertisement that uses Fukushima as a hypnotic code word to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about new nuclear power plants. It has purchased time slots in all of the major media markets in Iowa, where legislation is being considered to give the Public Utility Commission the authority to allow MidAmerican Energy to add a charge to electricity bills to pay for financing costs associated with developing and building a new nuclear power plant.
According to an Associated Press article that I first found on CanadianBusiness.com with the following headline, TV ad campaign opposes new nuclear plant, MidAmerican has responded to the attack ads by producing a 3.5 minute YouTube video.
The environmental group, based in Washington, D.C., spent about $8,400 on the 30-second commercial that is running in the Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Sioux City markets.
The ad starts out with an explosion and dramatic background music. A narrator starts in: “One year ago Japan was rocked by nuclear disaster proving that nuclear energy is dangerous and costly …” referring to the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, where a tsunami knocked out power to the plant. The ad also expresses concerns about plans to increase consumer utility rates to pay for construction, saying customers shouldn’t have to pay up front before a power plant is even built.
MidAmerican Energy countered the television ad campaign with its own video that features CEO Bill Fehrman. It runs more than 3.5 minutes on YouTube and refutes some of the criticism of the proposed legislation.
Is it any wonder that the commercial media feels free to attack nuclear energy? When a prosperous, monopoly electric utility company owned by one of the world’s richest men responds to a focused attack using a free media service that does not provide a dime of revenue to ad-supported media corporations, why wouldn’t the talking heads employed by those corporations think it is okay to run stories that paint nuclear energy as evil? Do you think they will ever get a nudge from management to back down or tone down their attacks?
Aside: a Warren Buffett owned utility company does not even have the normal utility company excuse of being ignorant of the value of advertising. How many times have YOU seen the Geico Gecko in the past week? Here is one more photo to add to the total exposure count of what has to be one of the most frequently seen animated spokes-critters on the planet. End Aside.
Omaha.com picked up the same AP piece that I found on CanadianBusiness.com, but used a slightly different headline: Anti-nuke group’s ad counters bill. However, the people posting that version of the AP written article took the time to include embedded video clips of both the FOE ad and the MidAmerican Energy response.
Since I operate Atomic Insights as a free service whose mission is to spread the truth – which means mostly positive information, quite frankly – about nuclear energy, I have decided to make a small donation to MidAmerican’s feeble efforts to explain its lukewarm effort to consider the possibility of building a new nuclear plant sometime in the future. It looks like they could use the assistance; even after the mention and embed on Omaha.com the video has been viewed less than 200 times.
In the interest of fairness and balance, here is the Friends of the Earth ad, which chalks up one more use of the same grainy clip of one of the three brief hydrogen explosions that have been seen by tens of millions of people in the past year.
I wonder how many people in Iowa who have no strong preconceptions about nuclear one way or the other have seen the FOE commercial? Which one of the above videos do you think will do more to influence voters and ratepayers?
Do you think they will be prompted to supportive action by the 3.5 minutes worth of rational arguments offered by the well groomed, grey haired man in the starched shirt reading from the teleprompter?
Or do you think they will be motivated to take negative action by the 30 second spot that packs in a clip of an explosion, a photo of an ominous looking, backlighted plant belching stuff from cooling towers, photos of old and young couples who are obviously struggling to pay their bills, and a patriotic photo of the state capitol building with prominent contact information displayed?
Bottom line: Nuclear energy needs more media savvy communicators and fewer engineers, lawyers and accountants!
Unfortunately this is typical of the industry as a whole. I take it none of these people are familiar with the Parable of the Lamp:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before others around you, that they may see your good works ” – Matthew 5:15-16
Truly pathetic response by MidAmerican. Looks like it takes a video-games company to make an effective, emotional appeal for safe and reliable energy: http://youtu.be/_3CUv3H6eqE?hd=1
I don’t think energy companies are the best people to promote nuclear energy, as for obvious reasons they can’t attack fossil fuels too fiercely.
@George – “energy” companies cannot attack fossil fuels too fiercely. That is why there is a need for some focused nuclear companies or for some companies that recognize how to use synergy.
I love fossil fuels and think they have been, and will be, a huge blessing for the progress of society. I am just not all that keen on fossil fuel focused companies and promoters. I think it is time for people to start working to knock them off of their king of the universe hills.
My goal is not to knock the fuel, but to successfully compete with the suppliers.
To recognize that fossil fuels historically have been “a huge blessing for the progress of society” is one thing. But with todays knowledge of climate change and aerosol pollution there is an absolute imperative to “knock the fuel” wherever possible. I just don’t see how you could effectively argue for nuclear if you think fossil fuels are mostly fine.
I couldn’t agree more with the gist of this post. The battle for hearts and minds over nuclear power is being fought on Youtube and Facebook. And the good guys are losing. For every 10 people who read one of Rod’s posts, 1,000 or 10,000 watch fearmongering videos on youtube and repost them for their friends. I live in Japan and I get this all the time.
“Bottom line: Nuclear energy needs more media savvy communicators and fewer engineers, lawyers and accountants!” Absolutely. No question. 25 years ago, I was considered a “loose cannon” for my efforts in trying to push my company pro-active with nuclear energy issues. The industry-itself might be in a Promethean exercise by trying to educate through the media, but they can certainly diminish the damage done by FOE-type organizations by anticipating such shenanigans and hit the air-waves early-on. If nothing else, anti-nuke organizations are predictable. Head them off at the pass!
And the MidAmerican video has ratings and comments disabled. So the people who do support the building of the nuclear plant can’t even show it.
The FOE video does have ratings and comments enabled, so it is an opportunity to express your opinions.
Lastly the SimCity video game trailer is great.
Well done FOE ad; poorly conceived response.
The nuclear industry associations would do well to sponsor education for communications departments of nuclear utilities companies. They need to learn how/what to communicate to the public. Getting top advertising/marketing firms involved would add a new dimension; arguments by engineers don’t tap the right emotions of the public.
The AREVA animated videos I’ve seen are great: fast, colorful, accurate, positive, modern, musical, historical, benefit-oriented, etc. Why can’t the US industry catch on to advertising?
A side benefit of paid advertising would be to make the media more aware of the benefits of nuclear power, slowly eroding anti-nuke prejudice.
Sincere response, totally weak and useless in effect. Looks like they are trying to ‘spin’ the issues instead defending and advocating for nuclear by showing it’s advantages. [I hope Rod in your check you send them you give them some ADVICE!].
Instead of redefining the debate as ‘nuclear is the answer’ it the ad acts defensively and thus allows the FoE to define the parameters of the debate.
Rod, I disagree that nuclear energy needs fewer engineers, but fully agree that it needs more media savvy communicators.
I know what you intended to convey with that statement (not having solely engineer-types crafting pro-nuclear public relations strategies), but in literal terms I think you and I would both like to see more engineers working towards getting larger quantities of peaceful nuclear energy deployed.
Could someone clarify … what does MidAmerican mean when it says in video: “customer’s will be charged with financing costs.” This seems to contradict one of their main points in video: project will involve no pre-payments from ratepayers. Does anybody have additional clarification about this?
Rod, I gotta leave a dissenting opinion in this case. . .
I think they are smart to put it on youtube.
For one thing, you generally can’t run 3 minute ads on TV (well, you can, but it’s pretty expensive). I haven’t seen any 3-minute geico commercials lately.
Two, there are a lot of people in my generation and younger who hardly watch TV. The Internet is our media.
Three, when you run a TV ad, it’s on for however long it’s on for, then it’s gone. With a clip on YouTube, people like you and I can link the clip, and people can watch it whenever they want to, and it’ll probably still be there years from now. It’s not fixed to a specific “air time”.
So, I think the choice of youtube was smart. However, I agree with your notion that the *content* of the 3-minute video just isn’t impactful enough, and doesn’t include a “call to action”. You’re right that nuclear needs more media-saavy friends.
That response with the guy in the blue shirt soooooo borrrring. Would not take much to make it better. I would like to have seen a rendering of the plant and the surroundings, like Walt Disney would do when he talked about Disney World. Then like the other ad, show a couple in a kitchen with an electric bill and having a “favorable” look because it is not so high.
If any company could take the lead in America it could be Westinghouse. For them I recommend:
A Bold new logo – what they have reminds of appliances and is dated.
Improved website, with more information about their product (not just how to get a job there).
Website can also have photos and videos and animation about their projects.
I would like to see commercials in a kind of a Japanese Anime style, which would be unique.
So if anyone from Westinghouse is reading, I will be glad to share more with you!
Heh … I suppose that would be appropriate, since Westinghouse’s nuclear business is now a Japanese-owned company (owned by Toshiba since 2006).
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