Monthly Archives: February 2016

Net Metering Explained

First, we need to understand the grid. This is the system of lines, power plants, solar facilities, wind farms, dams, switches, transformers and other very expensive infrastructure the U.S. power industry uses to generate and deliver electricity to all of us, 24/7.101600_01_RR_NetMeter_1_TransmissionLines

Into the picture come homes and small businesses that install solar panels on their rooftops to generate their own electricity – independent of the grid. They don’t pay a utility company for it. It came from their roof. It’s theirs.101600_01_RR_NetMeter_2_RooftopSolar

But the sun doesn’t always shine. So these homes and businesses stay attached to the grid because they need electricity 24/7. Of course, they pay the utility for the power they use when the sun isn’t shining.


So far, pretty simple. But wait.

First, most of the homes and businesses with rooftop solar don’t use all of the power they generate. Where does it go? Since they can’t store it (at least not yet – a number of scientists and visionaries are working on technology to change that), it goes back to the grid, so the utility can deliver it to someone else.

And charge for it, though they didn’t generate it.

If that sounds unfair, don’t worry. The utility credits the homes or businesses for the rooftop-generated electricity they have sold to someone else. That’s the basis of the term net metering. In theory, the home or business owner isn’t billed for the total, or “gross” energy consumption. Instead, the charge is for the “net” consumption – the amount you use less the amount you generate.

But what price do the utilities pay? Utilities would like to pay what it costs them to generate, buy and deliver electricity. Rooftop solar owners, on the other hand, would like a price closer to what the utility is charging other customers. To further complicate matters, in some jurisdictions, prices paid to rooftop solar owners were established years ago, when solar electricity was much more expensive. Not surprisingly, the utilities would like to see the prices updated to reflect current (lower) costs. Just as unsurprisingly, rooftop solar owners resist that notion.101600_01_RR_NetMeter_4_Compared

There is yet another point of contention. It’s our friend, the grid, which, as we discussed, is very expensive. For the most part, the costs of the grid are baked into the rates the utility charges. Those rates are rooted the idea that customers are connected to the grid and pulling power from it 24/7. The theory: Spread the costs of the grid evenly across the entire ratepayer base.

However, based on that thinking, if rooftop solar owners aren’t pulling power from the grid all the time, they aren’t paying their fair share.

How so? Though they are always connected to it, they aren’t always paying the rate that includes its costs. Meaning those customers without rooftop solar will end up paying a disproportionately high percentage of its cost. Put another way, if a non-solar user pays a certain price for electricity and a solar user – after rebates – pays half that amount, the non-solar user is paying twice as much for a grid whose cost to both customers is constant. Utilities believe this is unfair. To close the gap, some utilities have proposed a flat service charge to rooftop solar owners to make up the difference and keep the costs of the grid distributed evenly. This has happened in Nevada.

Many proponents of rooftop solar resist. The original idea was that rooftop solar owners would derive savings from producing, using and selling their own power. Over time, those savings would cover the cost of installation and maintenance. They say that a combination of unfairly low rates for credits and service charges make that impossible. Again, the utilities disagree.

So, who decides? As with virtually everything in the utility industry – regulators decide. In Nevada, it is the Public Utilities Commission, or PUC. In Arizona, it’s called the Arizona Corporation Commission, or ACC. These regulatory bodies conduct public hearings in which all affected parties – utilities, rooftop solar owners, the rooftop solar industry, the general public – state their case and make their proposals. They then decide what net metering rates will be enforced and what, if any, service charges will be adopted.

101600_01_RR_NetMeter_5_RegulatorsThose hearings create a fair amount of news. This is happening in Nevada right now.

Like many issues in the world of energy, net metering can seem esoteric and confusing. But if you live in a state with conditions conducive to creating solar energy, it’s an issue that will surface, if it hasn’t already. Hopefully we’ve been able to unravel the mystery enough to give you a basic understanding of an issue that won’t be going away anytime soon.

R&R Employs Water Expertise at the National Rural Water Association’s Annual Conference

Nothing is more precious on this planet than water. It’s the one necessary ingredient to produce life as we know it.

Unfortunately, most people use water every day without thinking twice about it. Where does it come from? How much do we have left? Is it safe to drink?

This is where R&R Partners, the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) and its state affiliates come in. On January 14 and 15, 2016, R&R worked with NRWA and its state affiliates to sponsor their annual water conference in Miami, Florida. The conference brought together like-minded individuals whose public health goals include water storage, safety and conservation.

So what exactly is NRWA and what does it do? NRWA and its members provide safe drinking water to thousands of communities across the country and help to protect America’s water resources. Together, they provide training and technical assistance to roughly 31,000 small and rural water and wastewater systems. In fact, NRWA comprises the largest utility membership organization in the U.S. It believes in empowering local groups through training and education so that they are able to safely manage any water issue that comes their way.


Water issues are all too familiar to R&R Partners. Based in the drought-prone West, R&R first began working on water conservation efforts with the Southern Nevada Water Authority more than 20 years ago. Back then, residents in Nevada and across the West had many misconceptions on who was using water and how it could be saved. For example, most thought that huge hotels and golf courses were the biggest water consumers. The truth was, and still is, that the largest single user-group was homeowners. The vast majority of that usage is outside, keeping trees, shrubs − mostly lawns − alive in the West’s arid desert climate.

Over the years, R&R worked to educate the public on water conservation. Developing smart and sexy campaigns, we have saved billions of gallons of water every year with virtually no effect on the lives of the homeowners and business owners who conserve. Ordinary people continuing to do ordinary things, saving water, one gallon at a time. Today, the citizens of Southern Nevada are saving more than 42.5 million gallons of water every day. We have reduced our consumption of water from 248 gallons per capita per day (GPCD) in 2008 to 118 GPCD in 2014. We are saving water at a rate five times greater than the rate of our population growth.

Even with the good work done by R&R in Nevada, there is much more work to be done nationwide. Drought remains a top concern among many citizens, especially those who live in the West. In fact, a Colorado College Conservation in the West poll released last month revealed that this issue remains a top concern. In addition, scientists have predicted that the ongoing drought in the West will worsen in the coming decades. That is why it is more important than ever for R&R to continue working alongside important water groups like NRWA.

Preview Las Vegas 2016: Future. Forward.

“If we’re all here at Preview,” I joked to my colleague sitting next to me, “who is running Las Vegas?” A flippant remark turned into perfect fodder for a tweet, yet as I reflect back on the January 29th program, it certainly rings true. A veritable who’s who in community leaders in both the private and public sector in Las Vegas descended on the Thomas & Mack Center for the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Preview 2016 event.

“Future. Forward.” was this year’s theme, and Chamber CEO and President Kristen McMillan led us through an action-packed agenda centered on Las Vegas as an exciting, ever-evolving city for visitors, businesses and citizens alike. Peppered throughout were prerecorded economic insights from Dr. Stephen Miller, director of the UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research. From many statistics and charts, I took away that Nevada’s economic recovery was underway − Dr. Miller dubbed Nevada “one of the fastest growing states.”

After a Star Wars lightsaber introduction, Dr. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West, took the stage to share how Las Vegas is in the midst of a Metropolitan Revolution. He shared how proactive leaders led the city through the I11 initiative to UNLV’s Medical School to an economic environment attracting businesses like Faraday Future. Yet that was the past; in Dr. Lang’s opinion, the future stems on renegotiating tourist taxes to expand the Las Vegas Convention Center, build a light rail and construct a stadium.

“I think what struck me,” says R&R Partners’ Sara Macfarlane, “is the progress the business community has made of setting goals and achieving them − the payoff (I11, UNLV Medical School) has been good. And we get a front seat at R&R.”

Next up was a panel discussion hosted by Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority president and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter on the topic of aviation trends, travel and security. Joined by Michael Boyd, president of Boyd Group International, Roger Dow, president & CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, and Warren Eales, Port director, Customs and Border Protection, this portion of the program centered on trends in “internationalization” as an opportunity for Las Vegas as a destination, namely travelers from China.

Joe Martin, director of Strategy and Planning for R&R Partners, acknowledged that the time has come to invest in “destination internationalization.” “The LVCVA has done a tremendous job cultivating international demand and growing that segment of the visitation, the idea of creating a more welcoming experience for visitors from all over the globe not only makes sense, it has become imperative. For a destination as world-renowned and as reliant on tourism as Las Vegas, our goal as a community should be to enhance the visitor experience in everything we do.”

Steve Hill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, warmly introduced Dag Reckhorn from Faraday Future. After the premiere of its concept car at CES and selecting North Las Vegas for a $1 billion plant investment, Future Faraday (FF − as its VP of global manufacturing shared with us) embodied the Future. Forward. theme of today. Additionally, Reckhorn pledged $6 million over six years to local K−12 schools, which roused the audience into a round of energetic applause. Future, indeed!

The final speaker of the morning was MGM Resorts International chairman Jim Murren, who stated that his comments would be a “celebration of Las Vegas.” He mentioned that few cities can host world-class events … at the same time like Las Vegas and challenged all sectors to unite around public education. He appealed to the audience about convention business, as well as the proposed light rail: “We need to provide multiple efficient points of travel.” Murren closed with calling Las Vegas a resilient, giving, sustainable city − the “Entertainment Capitol of the World.”

The Metro Chamber of Commerce gave us a preview into the future of our city, and as we’ve moved from economic recovery to economic development, I can see how we are indeed on a path to Future. Forward. In a city known for hospitality, service and dynamic energy, it is perhaps moving forward that we do best.

Super Bowl Ads


Doritos Ultrasound − Really fun and baked with truth, although actual Doritos are not baked with truth. They are baked with a lot of stuff that really isn’t that good for you. I love everything about this ad though. The dad who gets to play with his kid while the kid is still in the womb. The fact that they probably eat a lot of Doritos so the kid has already had a taste because Doritos are in the blood, man. So, I really do believe he knows what he is going after when he reaches for the Doritos. Doritos are the motivation for life itself in this ad, which involves the great ending that I didn’t see coming. Big laughs all around and a simple concept that comes across even if you can barely hear it with all the people crying about how bad Cam looks.

T-Mobile Restricted Bling − I was not a Drake fan, but he’s wonderful in this ad. His enthusiasm for the insane changing to his cellphone video is fantastic. And the ad gets the message across about the benefits of signing with T-Mobile in the best way possible − by bagging on the other guys in a super fun way. This was one of my favorites because we all are very familiar with the song and with Drake. I love that they play him against the rapper cast as a total sell out here. And with a performer who has the street cred of Drake, this makes for really good times and it was very unexpected. That is how sad I am. I used the words street cred. YO!

Audi, The Commander − First off, I am a Bowie fan and the song “Starman” is a favorite. It was sad to see him go. His song is used perfectly here with nostalgic images that evoke the excitement of the first space flight of our sad former astronaut. There is a great truth here for any young man who gets into the cockpit of a car. Most of us can’t fly planes or rocket ships, but we can drive. And our imaginations run wild. When we are behind the wheel of the right car, we are rock stars, jet pilots, secret agents − heck − we are gods for one small moment. The Audi ad portrays this perfectly and takes us all back to that time when we got behind the wheel for our first drive. In our sad astronaut’s case, he is remembering his first mission. Same thing. And it pulls him out of his funk. The only thing missing was the landing on the planet with the Amazon Women. Another thing men like; cool cars for speed − and women. Maybe that’s next year.

Mt. Dew PuppyMonkeyBaby − Say it three times. It might be the most talked about spot in the Big Game. Weird? YES! A little gross? YES! But simple, great and fun. You will not quickly forget Puppy Monkey Baby and you will want to try the product if you are in the demo. And if you are in this demo, the combination of insanity in this surely sugary nightmare of a drink will hit the spot at least once. And I guarantee when someone asks what it is, you will say, “PuppyMonkeyBaby.” It rolls off the tongue.

Jeep, 75 Years − Pretty nice anthem ad for Jeep. It talks about the heritage and the cultural significance of Jeep, but also makes you think that Jeep is for those who really live life’s adventure. Who doesn’t want to live life’s adventure to the fullest? And, of course, it’s got Steve McQueen in it. So there’s that.

Heinz Wieners − I LOVE WIENER DOGS. I have two miniature wiener dogs, although one has plumped from overfeeding. So I could watch thing this thing over and over. Some people said to me, “What? Are they going to eat the dogs?” I don’t like to think of my little doggies covered in catsup, ready to be eaten, but that isn’t the message here. The message is, Heinz condiments go great with hot dogs. So great, that even the hot dogs come a running for it. And it is done in a way that I could watch over and over and over and over. Job well done.


LG’s Man from the Future − Liam was so great last year. So great. What was he doing this year? The ad wasn’t funny and it wasn’t good. They got my expectations up and then squashed them with Liam throwing cards at a screen and the card stops and his younger self gets in the card and then people start chasing him and he gets on a motorcycle and then Liam is talking about the Oled TV. Is the Oled TV some kind of technology that the Russians are after? I thought we were against ISIS now? I am really confused by this whole thing. I’ll tell you this. I am not getting that Oled TV. For one, it looks really expensive. It had to pay for some future Tron world and Liam’s cool suit and the flying playing card. And oh, I never liked Tron. So, no Oled TV for me. Thanks for the disappointing time, Liam. Even Taken 7 will be better than this LG commercial.


Snickers Marilyn − I read an article that skewered this ad because of the transgender rights movement. That seems really silly to me. These Snickers ads have been doing this bit for a while now and men have turned to women and women have turned to men. This isn’t the best one. It used a great iconic moment in film, but could have been funnier. The tone just wasn’t right. Dafoe, as a comic actor, always plays the serious scary guy. It’s funny in movies like The Grand Budapest Hotel, but not so great in a commercial where he needs to bring off a different tone. So, tone-wise, it was a tad off − Snickers shouldn’t be that scary and neither should Marilyn. However, it got the brand message across and was talked about, before the Super Bowl and after, so it did the trick. I am talking about it because I hate when the political correctness game is played against a silly ad like this.

Kia Walken Closet − I was not a big fan of this one. The Kia reminds me of the beige socks. So I don’t really understand the strategy here. Walken is always good. The writing is even good. But do I want to buy a Kia after seeing it? NO. Do I want to go and look at a Kia after seeing it? NO. Also, they take the joke too far when he goes to show him the car and then he is in the car. I feel like he is going to be in the office as well, having the guy sign the papers, talking to the loan officers, eating donuts. I will say this − there is some truth to it. There are some super-creepy salesmen at car dealerships. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Christopher Walken strutted out to show me a Kia. It actually might be a better commercial as well.

Budweiser #GiveADamn – Didn’t get this at all. It’s Bud. Why are you having a British person tell Bud drinkers to be responsible? Seems like they would drink more in defiance and drive as fast as possible under the influence. Is this knowing your audience? Is Helen Mirren the human manifestation of a Clydesdale? Do Bud drinkers even know who she is? Again, human manifestations of Clydesdales might make a nice campaign. Pay me, Bud.

Shocktop After Super Bowl Ad −

TJ Miller and the Shocktop Beer Tap take on the Big Game ads with their funny commentary. Great idea and a great extension of a Super Bowl ad.

Check out another perspective on the Super Bowl commercials from R&R’s Chief Strategic Officer/Principal, Randy Snow, here: 

A Safe Day at the Super Bowl

OK. Another Super Bowl (the 50th!) has come and gone. The Denver Broncos once again upheld one of the oldest, hoariest clichés in sports: Defense wins championships.

But, who cares? We’re here to talk about the ads. Very soon, I’ll tell you about some of the ads I liked, some I didn’t and one I’m still not sure about.

But first, a few general observations:

Animals, babies and celebrities: All year long, we in the ad business talk about risk-taking, disruption, establishing new paradigms and performing “outside the box.” And every year, in the biggest advertising showcase of them all, we get … animals, babies and celebrities. You can set your watch by it. Anthropomorphic animals, incredibly advanced infants and celebrities by the boatload − commercial break after commercial break. When I first got into this business, I never thought that a flock of sheep singing a Queen song, or a Doritos-loving fetus launching itself from the womb, would be considered safe. But here we are. And at $5,000,000 for each half minute, I guess I can’t blame the advertisers (or their agencies) for sticking to the tried and true. That’s a lot of money to risk on disruption.

Dead people sell: Being dead certainly didn’t prevent you from appearing in a Super Bowl ad yesterday. We saw Marilyn Monroe on the screen and heard David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Harry Nilsson on various soundtracks.

Bodily functions: I freely admit that pharmaceutical companies have as much right as any advertiser to spend millions in the Super Bowl. But, as I was sitting at the R&R’s Super Bowl party, enjoying seasoned popcorn, hot dogs, chicken wings, mac & cheese, cookies, cake and all other manner of deliciously unhealthy food, the last messages I wanted to be confronted with were those for opioid-induced constipation or the severe diarrhea associated with irritable bowel syndrome. And the less said about toenail fungus, the better. The animated intestines were cute though.

Finally, I was happy to learn that Hollywood is unleashing sequels to Cloverfield and Independence Day. That’s cool.

On to the ads:


Mountain Dew Kickstart PuppyMonkeyBaby: Lots of people liked this. A lot of people didn’t. But a lot of people are talking about it, which is one of the points. I thought the ad did two things really well. First, it took a not-so-subtle jab at the tendency of Super Bowl advertisers to fall back on animals and babies. They created a memorable character that was both. Good for you, Mountain Dew. And second, their puppymonkeybaby actually helped sell the main idea: three great things in one package. A Super Bowl ad that actually sells its product’s main benefit. Well done.

No More Text Talk: Many years ago, at a creative conference of some sort, when asked to explain his agency’s penchant for quieter, more thoughtful ads, the late Hal Riney replied, “When everyone else is shouting, perhaps it’s a good idea to whisper.” Yeah. So, when almost everyone else was trying to make us laugh with animals, babies and celebrities, this one drew you in with a quiet, effective, scary presentation of a really serious subject. Followed by a call to action that came directly from the production technique they used. Nice.

Audi R8 Commander: Yes, this is theoretically selling a car that goes 205 mph and probably costs close to $200,000. How many of us can actually buy it? But I think the ad is more about the kind of company that will build such a car than the car itself. Liked the ad for a number of reasons. First, it features an old guy. I’m an old guy. We’re under-represented in Super Bowl ads. Second, it told a great story (two of them, actually). And third … Bowie’s “Starman.” Would have been perfect under any circumstances. Absolutely perfect this year.

NFL Super Bowl Babies: Who knew? Apparently, there’s a phenomenon of babies being born to parents who are fans of the winning team nine months after the Super Bowl. Unexpected idea, executed really well. Kudos to whomever came up with this concept and even more to the team who actually found all of the born-nine-months-after-the-Super-Bowl adults and kids. The teasers and the 30-second spot were good, but if you get a chance, watch the three-and-a-half minute video. Here it is.

Avocados from Mexico Avocados in Space: It’s a familiar trope. Pick a setting deep into the future and watch people marvel at how ridiculous our current lives were – or are. But this one was very current and very smart. And it had a few little nuggets for extra smiles: “And they had Chia pets, just like we do.”

Didn’t Like:

Budweiser Not Backing Down: If Donald Trump were a beer ad, this is the beer ad he’d be: loud, obnoxious, boastful, egotistical and more than a little bit xenophobic. Taken together with Helen Mirren scolding Americans for drunk driving (fairly effectively, I thought), it was clear that in Super Bowl 2016, Budweiser wanted to get all up in our collective faces.

Bud Light Bud Light Party – I really like Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen. I think they’re both really funny. They’re just not very funny in this. Not one, not two, but three – count ’em, three – big caucus jokes. Really? Opportunity wasted.

Snickers Marilyn: First, I really like Snickers’ You’re Not Yourself When You’re Hungry campaign. Danny Trejo and Steve Buscemi playing Marcia and Jan Brady was probably my favorite ad in last year’s game. But Willem Dafoe in drag as the late Marilyn Monroe is just a little creepy for me. And Eugene Levy: Why is he in it?

One I’m Not Sure About Movin’ On Up: First, it is my belief that the presence of Jeff Goldblum makes any ad a good ad. He’s great here too. But I have questions. Will the younger, Millennial audience this ad is clearly aiming for, who will know Lil Wayne when they see him, have any recollection at all of a TV show that was cancelled 31 years ago? Secondly, will those in the audience who do remember The Jeffersons recognize Lil Wayne? Will they know one of his nicknames is Weezy? Seems like an odd mash-up of cultural references. But, maybe I’m wrong.

Check out another perspective on the Super Bowl commercials from R&R’s Executive Creative Director, Arnie DiGeorge, here:

Big Brands See Value in Good Behavior

This year, during the Super Bowl, some brands are shifting their focus from their products to messages about the use of their products. In simpler terms, they are learning to align consumer values to that of the brand. Colgate plans to air a spot to remind its customers to turn off the tap while brushing their teeth. The brand was looking for a way to ramp up its commitment and amplify what the company is doing to support water conservation. While Colgate has been doing this for years, especially in Latin America, it just recently starting promoting this in the U.S. It’s hoping that the Super Bowl will get its brand some additional exposure. And, in turn, make its customers more loyal by tapping into a national issue like water conservation, which is top of mind due to the severe drought the West is facing.

Another brand that’s shifting the focus from product to responsible consumer use is Budweiser USA. It has recently promoted a spot featuring Helen Mirren where she sternly lectures responsible drinking while promoting the hashtag #GiveADamn. Budweiser will be airing additional spots during the Super Bowl, but it’s clear that brands are seeing an impact in promoting their corporate responsibility efforts to a broad consumer base with similar values.

helen-mirren-zoom-990b5adb-1634-4388-8444-cef3c62f6589While corporate social responsibility has been around for quite some time, nowadays, it seems that it’s become a business imperative. And it’s moving into the mainstream this year with many companies’ efforts. Brands are choosing to make a conscious decision to purchase advertising during the big game to support and promote this type of messaging.

So, what does this all mean? How will corporate responsibility drive growth, transparency, empowerment and brand engagement? And maybe the biggest question of all, will brands secure long-term loyalty by implementing these corporate social responsibility efforts into mainstream advertising?

We shall wait and see.