As the cost of living crisis bites and the big energy firms reveal record profits, many consumers will be left wondering where to turn; in fact, it is claimed that four in ten British households will struggle to pay their next energy bill.
But there is help available for those with household debt, it is just that few people realise it.
Enter a new campaign, Stop the Silence, that aims to raise awareness of the help available through the British Gas Energy Trust – an independent charitable organisation founded in 2004 by British Gas to support those facing financial hardship and energy debt.
The campaign from Nucleus, the integrated agency group responsible for all British Gas communications, is led by a film created with director Geej Ower. The story is based on real conversations the British Gas Energy Trust has with the people it supports on a daily basis.
At the centre of the narrative is Rob – a single dad silently struggling with the emotional impact of not being able to pay his bills. He chooses to not confide his problems with those who surround him and instead puts on a brave face.
The film opens with a seemingly happy Rob getting his kids ready to go back to their mum after a weekend stay. He asks his daughter: “Did you enjoy this weekend?” to which she replies “yes” and everything appears joyful as he says goodbye.
However, as soon as he is back in his house, the mood changes as Rob switches off lights and appliances to save energy, until he’s finally sat alone in complete silence and virtually in the dark – a consequence of his situation and isolation from support.
In the final scene, however, Rob receives a call back from the British Gas Energy Trust offering him the possibility of a different, more positive future. This is echoed in the final narration, voiced by Professor Green, which encourages the viewer not to suffer in silence and to reach out to the charity for support if they’re in need of help.
The campaign launches this week with cinema, radio and digital media executions. It marks the second large-scale campaign highlighting the work the British Gas Energy Trust does, following the ‘You’re Not Alone’ campaign in late last year, also developed by Nucleus.
Nucleus chief creative officer Micky Tudor commented: “We wanted to capture in a nuanced way, the all-too-common situation of a man struggling to cope with rising energy bills. It was important to us that the film portrays the situation many people are currently going through, without ratifying the stereotypes attached with financial hardship. The film does so in two ways: first by acknowledging the sacrifices and isolation individuals facing fuel poverty can experience, and second by showcasing that the first step to help is to talk about it.”
As well as lending his voice to the film, campaign spokesperson Professor Green shares his own experience of growing up in Hackney with his grandmother, who regularly had to make the difficult choice between paying the bills and eating a hot meal.
British Gas Energy customer experience and marketing director Americo Lenza said: “As more people face the struggles of fuel poverty for the first time, it is essential for us to not only fund the amazing work of the British Gas Energy Trust, but also bring it to the attention of a wider audience who may not know support is available.
“Too often we’ve found that people who are struggling don’t know the resources out there, which is why this poignant film and the other elements of the campaign are so important to raise awareness.”
So, what is the consensus around the Decision Marketing office?
These are dark times – quite literally – for many people struggling to pay their energy bills. No-one could argue that something needs to be done and we would be the first to urge those in need to contact the British Gas Energy Trust and hopefully this hard-hitting campaign will hit home.
However, you have to wonder how we got here in the first place? After all, British Gas’ parent saw operating profit for 2021 double to £948m last year. In fact, the UK’s big six raked in more than a billion pounds of profit ahead of this year’s record hike in bills. The highest earner, SSE, made £600m alone in profit before taxes, according to annual accounts published by the energy regulator Ofgem.
Astonishingly, the poorest customers actually end up with higher costs. According to a recent study by Compare The Market, lower income households pay three times more for their energy than those with more money.
So while the British Gas Energy Trust is no doubt doing a great job, surely it is time for a wider review of the energy market? Can it really be that in 2022, the poorest still have to weigh up what comes first, food or lighting?
Decision Marketing Adometer: A “time for action” 8 out of 10