Toyota's new 3rd gen Prius ads are mesmerizing

I’m blown away by the new Prius ads.

David Kiley said this ad from Toyota may have been inspired by Honda’s earlier diesel engine “Hate Something” spot (compare the two yourself), but from my eyes, it’s the freshest creative in a decade.

But it’s not just creative for creative’s sake. Lots of agencies are living the creed “make it entertaining, engaging and disruptive” so consumers take notice and buy.

The new Prius spot is much more.

They’ve taken a car that was already the # 1 best selling hybrid in the world – the undisputed mainstream brand – and made it a vehicle of the people, for the people, by the people. Literally.

Using 200 extras, they created a layered - but somehow unified - sea of 1 million people parts. Everything (except the Prius, road and sky) was constructed from human beings who become “landscape texture.”  Grass. Water. Trees. Clouds. Stones. Leaves. Sun. Flowers. Butterflies. The Bellamy Brothers’ # 1 hit from 1976 - “Let Your Love Flow” – is the audio glue. 

The piece de resistance (besides the people, colors and music) is the movement. As the Prius drives by, clouds shift, grass sways, butterflies fly, flowers open, water flows, the sun glows.
 
It’s a visual trip, blending nature, technology and the human race.
 
They’ve raised the branding bar yet again with the newest Prius ad, spotlighting solar.

Hopefully for Toyota, the new campaign will move more than grass. The Prius has been struggling in the U.S. of late (mirroring the rest of the auto industry). U.S. sales of the Prius were down from 15,011 in May 2008 to 10,091 for the same month this year. Year to date, U.S. Prius sales are 42,753 compared to 79,675 in 2008 – 45 per cent less than last year.
 
I feel better every time I see these ads. I actually want to see them.
 
I can’t remember the last time this happened. 

Baseball, apple pie and sustainability

Portsmouth, NH Sustainability Fair 2009Today we are pleased to have guest blogger, Carrie O'Neil, a Sr. Account Executive at Beaupre, write about the local sustainability fair.

This past week the Portsmouth community took some giant steps forward in becoming an eco-municipality at the 2nd annual Portsmouth Sustainability Fair.

As the local Little League played games across the street, and farmer’s market around the corner was a hive of activity, the Sustainability Fair was a more contemporary scene. With human-powered vehicles, composting buckets, geothermal systems, solar hot water systems and rainwater collection systems, the Fair was abuzz with inspiring ideas.

Crowds came to the Zero Waste event with their recycled goods for donation and an open mind about what they can do to reduce their impact on the earth. While kids learned about ocean creatures and crafts made from recycled materials, their parents were able to learn about reducing dependence on fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals.

Portsmouth Sustainability Fair - 2009; Photo by Ralph MorangIn addition to the big ticket solar panels and geothermal energy systems you might expect to see at a sustainability event, people saw a lot of small measures like composting, locally grown and fair trade food, weatherization, waterless/earth friendly car washing solutions, and natural beauty products. All these measures, spoke to the single most important change we can make to help the environment: consuming less.

Portsmouth has been Beaupre’s home for 26 years, so it was gratifying for us to witness so much interest in environmentally sustainable practices (We were also pleased to help this local cause).

Maybe some day back-yard composters, geothermal pumps and bio fuels will be woven into the fabric of everyday life just as tightly as the Little League. 

Cleantech links for 5-6-2009

- Thinking of going solar? First start with an energy self audit. Here's how (Scientific American)

- Ford is spending $550 million to retool one of its plants into a green car factory (CNET Planetary Gear)

- Is the EPA finally standing up to the corn ethanol lobby? The industry is having a conniption over new biofuel emission rules. (Earth2Tech)

- What do think of Volkswagen's new eco-friendly (or not?) print ad? Greenwash Index wants to know.

- The first LEED Platinum, true Zero Net Energy home in Vermont. (Jetson Green)

- We know the clean energy industry is engineering bacteria to produce better biofuels. But bacteria for better solar panels too?

A broader PR palette now critical to move clean technology industry forward

Wind turbine - PR critical to move clean technology industry forwardClean technology investment was a major platform for Obama during his campaign.
He said, "My energy plan will put $150 billion over 10 years into establishing a green energy sector that will create up to 5 million new jobs over the next two decades."He promised to create a Clean Technologies Venture Capital Fund, hoping to invest $10 billion per year into this fund for five years. Obama also promised to double science and research funding for clean-energy projects, including those making use of biomass, solar and wind resources. This was such an encouraging vision for our industry.
But the encouraging news is that this wasn’t campaign rhetoric.
Yesterday, President Obama boldly acted on fuel efficiency and global warming. He urged passage of the $825 billion economic stimulus package in the House and Senate. Those bills include billions for investment in renewable energy, conservation and an improved electric grid. He said, “No single issue is as fundamental to our future as energy.”
There’s never been a more critical time for authentic, persuasive, pragmatic, inspired communications. But does “traditional PR” play within this unfolding drama? Are messaging, thought leadership and media relations the core PR elements needed to affect the necessary change?
 
No, certainly not.
 
The clean technology industry is a complex ecosystem that includes economics, politics and public policy. Clean technology companies must continually balance these considerations. The industry also has a vibrant moral dimension – a making the world a better place element – that adds legitimacy, scope, involvement and urgency.
 
In this dicey economic time, the clean technology industry needs even greater support from investors, public policy makers and the public itself to blossom. To achieve the progress President Obama envisions, we must think, plan and act holistically from a communications perspective as the clean tech industry develops and markets products and solutions that ultimately enable us to live cleaner, greener, better lives.
 
Thankfully, public relations now represents a much wider palette. It should – and must - embrace a variety of strategic areas including thought leadership, public advocacy, social media, crisis communications, ethnography, employee communications, corporate social responsibility, multi-cultural relations, healthcare, change management and financial communications.
 
To name a few.
 
Depending on the clean tech company, product/service, market segment and challenges faced, many of these communications ingredients must be thoughtfully weighed, integrated and acted upon, often in the same relative timeframe. Again and again and again.
 
Yes, these are complex, critical, consuming, highly charged challenges for communications professionals.
But what a historic moment to shape a societal/global movement that will continue to grow in urgency as tough times morph … into stable times … and better times.

Grid computing makes the world a better place

In 1999, the Seti@Home project was launched to take advantage of the world's idle PCs in the search for extraterrestrial life. It was one of the earliest examples of volunteer grid computing: tapping the collective processing power of many widely scattered computers that are not normally centrally controlled. 

Today, the World Community Grid is applying that same model for research projects that benefit humanity. Its mission is to create the world's largest public computing grid for discovering new clean energy technologies  and other worthy scientific breakthroughs. WCG is making the technology available to public and not-for-profit organizations that might otherwise not do the research due to the high cost of a high-performance computing infrastructure. 

It costs you nothing and couldn't be easier to participate -- a simple, one-click download is all that's required to make your PC part of the grid. When you're away from your PC, it will crunch data for a specific WCG project and send the results back to a central server. Each computation that your computer performs provides scientists with critical information that accelerates the pace of research. Check it out and get involved here.


Kamen segues into LED lighting

Photo by: John Brandon Miller - New York TimesInventor Dean Kamen has taken his three-acre island off the grid by retrofitting the buildings and grounds with LED lighting – some in dazzling colors – to cut power consumption in half. What power he does still need comes from wind and solar. The catch? It wasn’t cheap. Check out the details and the slide show. 

Photo credit: John Brandon Miller, The New York Times

Podcast: Advent Solar CEO Peter Green

Advent Solar podcast - Beaupre Brodeur clean technologyPeter Green, President and CEO of Advent Solar,leading manufacturer of innovative solar cells and modules, talks about the parallels between the semiconductor and solar photovoltaic (PV ) industries, and highlights new opportunities for innovation based on these parallels.



Utility-scale solar power in the spotlight

Solar Power 08 San Diego, CAWhen I walked the aisles at Solar Power 08 it was salmon-packed-home-bound-up-the-river-time; you literally moved down aisles in slow motion. Like the telecommunications scene two decades ago, consolidation is coming fast to the solar industry. I've never seen so many manufacturers of photovoltaic (PV) modules; they're not all going to make it. But it's not just PV manufacturers here in San Diego, there's a fully developed ecosystem including utilities, distributors, contractors, installers, architects, consultants and financiers.
 
The most amazing factoid I've heard so far is fresh data published by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), which co-sponsors the show with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
 
SEPA disclosed that utilities are quickly becoming the largest cuSolar Power 08 San Diego Why Use Solar?stomer for the solar industry. Leading the way is Southern California Edison which has the most solar electric capacity integrated into its power portfolio. Overall capacity exceeds 409 megawatts. Pacific Gas & Electric has the most solar electric capacity on the customer side of the meter with 144+ megawatts. And there are dozens and dozens of other utilities upping the ante.
 
It's not a cliche to say we're only seeing the literal tip of the iceberg. 2008 has seen an unprecedented number of announcements of large solar power projects that include concentrating solar thermal and photovoltaic plants. The scale of activity is massive, over 5,500 projects ranging from 10 to 800 megawatt installations.
Solar Power 08 San Diego, CA 
Lots and lots of jobs are also being created; over 4.2 million nationally at last count.
 
As Governor Schwarzenegger said "Solar is everywhere, it's the future; it can't be stopped."
 
Everybody in San Diego is pretty pumped up this week; encouraging news for a struggling economic time.
 
Let the sunshine in.  

Sunshine days at Solar Power 2008 in San Diego

Solar Power 08 - Need capital? I'm in San Diego catching lots of sun at Solar Power 2008.
 
This whole scene reminds me of high tech industry boom days circa 20+ years ago (well before the Internet explosion) when technologies and companies were genuinely substantive and going someplace real.
 
Consider these numbers. Solar Power made its debut only five years ago with about 40 companies exhibiting. Visitor attendance was around 100 people. Same deal in 2005. 
 
In 2006, exhibitors doubled to about 100; that same year visitors spiked to 8,000.
 
In 2007, exhibitors doubled again, to 200; visitors jumped to approximately 13,000.Solar Power 08
 
This year, the doubling effect has happened again. There are at least 450 vendors showing their wares and more than 25,000 people are checking out what is now the world's largest solar event. The registration lines are deep and they've already sold out full conference offerings.
 
Arnold Schwarzenegger kicked things off in a surprise visit Monday night. Say what you want about The Governator, but he's demonstrated unmatched commitment and leadership on environmental issues. Cah-lee-forr-nea is so far ahead of every other state; it's remarkable and inspiring. Gov. Schwarzenegger was in a spirited mood and rallied the audience with an upbeat series of quotables including:
 
"We want to have everything clean."
 
"What's green for the environment can also be green for the economy."
 
Solar Power 08 - Do Business in California"We must not give in to those who say the environment should take a backseat during difficult financial times. It is wrong.”
 
"Something's going on when Congress finally gets its act together; we've been pushing them and pushing them, and finally a tax credit."
 
"We're seeing more action than even some action movies; not mine, they had great action."
 
"I can envision going in the helicopter and seeing no more warehouses without solar power on top of them."
 
"Be bold and keep shooting for the stars. I'll be back."
 
He knows how to get a crowd pumped up.

Green wine

Green wine - CleanSpeak - Steve HodgdonWhat happens when you mix wine with social media and clean technology? Solar energy.

But I'm not talking about some new age vino-alchemy.

Rather, a new Facebook app that's spurring California vitners to purchase renewable energy certificates that fund solar projects.

Check it out at Greenbiz.com.

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