Author: Randy Snow, Chief Strategic Officer/Principal

When You Buy the Chance to Speak to 100 Million+ People, What Do You Say?

Before we begin, let’s get a couple of non-advertising subjects out of the way.

First, the game ended up being very exciting. The first SB overtime ever. The biggest SB lead ever overcome (blown?). Some say the Patriots won it. Others feel they were simply there to accept the gift that the Falcons so generously gave them. I saw a little of both. And since I’m a fan of neither team, my hope was for a close game. Mission accomplished.

Second, Lady Gaga is really brave (and clearly not afraid of heights). Her 19-minute greatest hits medley was fun and predictably over-the-top. I always wonder where they find a place big enough to rehearse those productions. The drones were cool too. Drones are almost always cool.

Okay, on to the ads. My initial impression: not a great year, not a bad one. In terms of quality, pretty much in line with the last two or three. Not quite as many anamorphic animals. (Hey, Budweiser, no dogs and Clydesdales this year?) The usual boatload of celebrities – some used very well, some totally wasted. Lots of movie trailers for big, bloated summertime tent-pole action films. Not sure the world is clamoring for new entries in the Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers canons, but the new Fast and Furious movie looks like it might be fun.

If there was one very noticeable trend, it was this – there are a bunch of big-money advertisers that spent a lot of money making the point that, regardless of the opinions held by many of the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, things like inclusion, diversity, understanding, equality, empowerment and the struggle of immigrants to find a better life are still an important part of our social fabric.

Air BnB led off with an in-your-face (literally) declaration:

Then, Coca-Cola did its Coca-Cola thing:

Google Home, with a very nice celebration of diversity and commonality:

No Clydesdales, but Budweiser did tell an (admittedly, somewhat embellished) immigration story. This is interesting because it’s almost exactly the opposite of the brash, bellicose, supremely annoying declaration of “all things ‘Murican’” it ran in last year’s game. Many, including Sarah Palin, are now calling for a boycott of Budweiser. Can’t think of a better reason to Buy Some Buds:

A10 warns of “four years of awful hair.” Good for them:

Audi talks female empowerment and equality, through a kick-ass little racer:

Finally, the ballsiest of them all. 84 Lumber, of all people, gave us this:

The original spot ended on a shot of a great big wall at the border. Fox Television said “no” to that (shocking, I know). But if you go to the website teased at the end (which crashed on Sunday evening, but it’s working now), you’ll see the end of the story – and the wall. I applaud 84 Lumber not only for the communication, but also for the fact that it is a lumber supply and hardware retailer based in Western Pennsylvania. As such, I’m sure a great many of its core customers may not feel really in sync with its message (see the Budweiser boycott above). Kudos to 84 Lumber for having the conviction to follow through with it.

Advertisers don’t usually view the Super Bowl as a spot to make political or societal statements. The costs and the stakes are usually seen as too high. Hence a lot of animals, celebs and playing it safe. Of course, there was plenty of that this year as well, but it was heartening to see some marketing kahunas (Coke, Audi, Budweiser, Google) put their money where their mouth is and make some waves. Clearly, this year is different.

Now, some random observations from the game:

Worst product category, by far: telecom. Sprint has a guy faking his own death to avoid Verizon fees, while the “Can You Hear Me Now?” guy appears from nowhere on skis (even though there is no snow). Meanwhile T-Mobile serves up actress Kristen Schaal making bad 50 Shades of Gray bondage and discipline jokes with a Verizon customer rep. T-Mobile also gave us Justin Beiber, and a bunch of other really famous people are doing I’m-not-sure-what. And then, naturally, Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart. Of course. Why not?

Enjoy (or not):

The ad that got the biggest reaction from the R&R Super Bowl party crowd:

Mr. Clean creeped me out. A lot.

The ad that won the annual USA Today Ad Meter Contest:

Pretty funny in a slapstick kind of way. Great choice of music.

The Coen Brothers did this one? Really?

Not really up to their standards, IMHO. Plus, how many people born after 1970 even recognize Peter Fonda? Nice looking car, though.

My favorite ad of the day. This one was a little bit lost in the shuffle. Great writing and acting, which get a little bit overlooked at most Super Bowl gatherings. The R&R party crowd ignored it completely. I’m showing you the long version, because it’s so much fun. Watch it more than once to catch all the jokes.

There you go. Another “Big Game” in the books. More social statements, fewer animals. Though I was happy to see the Ghost of Spuds Mackenzie for Bud Light. I always liked Spuds, and though not great, the ad was a big step up from last year’s Seth Rogan/Amy Schumer election year fiasco.

Until next year, I’m out.

Which will have a greater effect in November? The political climate…or the actual climate?

The lines could not be more clearly drawn.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has clearly positioned climate change and the effort to reverse global warming as one of the centerpieces of her campaign. The Democratic Party’s platform agrees with the science recognizing a warming climate and attributing it to human activity. It also calls for putting a price (feel free to call it a tax) on carbon emissions.

Republican nominee Donald Trump, in the words of this New York Times article, “has gone further than any other Republican nominee in opposing climate change policy.” He refers to global warming as “a hoax.” The Republican Party’s platform is right there with him, calling climate change policy “the triumph of extremism over common sense.”

Needless to say, climate change is but one of many issues that voters will consider this November. For many, climate change and the environment in general, while important, will take a back seat to hot button topics including jobs, the economy and national security. Not to mention the seemingly endless list of character flaws brought to our attention each day by the candidates who the polls tell us are the two least-liked, least-trusted candidates in American presidential election history.

But for those who do view the health and future of our planet as an important factor in choosing the next president, the choice seems clear. Conversely, for those who are skeptical of climate change science and also stand firmly against any policies and regulations that may increase the costs of energy, there will be no hesitation.

Okay, fair enough. So where does America stand today? A Gallop poll taken in March tells us that 65% of Americans believe that human activity is playing a part in the warming of the planet. That’s a 10-point increase from just a year ago. Heck, even 38% of Republicans believe it, up 4 points from last year.

But there is another number in the same poll that jumps out even more. Fully 76% of Americans aged 18-29 believe human activity is causing or contributing to global warming. Those are the same Americans we commonly refer to as Millennials. And there are a lot of them. In fact, Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest American generation.

Should the Republicans, who have just published a platform that calls climate change policy “extremism” and have nominated a candidate who claims global warming is a “hoax,” be worried about those numbers?

That depends on a couple of things. First, are Millennials politically active? Will they vote? Second, if they are voting in large numbers, is the environment high on their list of political priorities?

Where can we find the answers to those questions? In the one place where Millennials are talking – social media.

Take a look at these charts measuring activity and interest based on social media use and conversations:



PPT_scatter_3-03These suggest that Millennials are very interested in politics and, as such, have become politically active.


PPT_scatter_1-01And these tell us that issues involving the environment and sustainability are of a high priority…

Millennials Grew Up Being Environmentally Conscious, So These Issues Are Very Relevant To Them Because They Understand The Importance Of Protecting Our Climate.
According to the NextGen website, “Much more than previous generations, Millennials grew up with things like recycling, turning off appliances and lights when not in use, and awareness of energy efficiency as the norm. As a result, environmental concerns are ingrained in their identity, and young voters understand the importance of protecting our climate.” [NextGen Climate, 4/29/16]

However there’s this…

Millennials Have Punched Below Their Electoral Weight In Recent Presidential Elections. For A Host Of Reasons, Young Adults Are Less Likely To Vote Than Their Older Counterparts, And Millennials Are No Exception. [PewResearch, 5/16/16]

[PewResearch, 5/16/16]

And this…

In 2016, For The First Time, Millennials Will Be As Large A Share Of The Eligible Voting Population As Boomers, Roughly 30 Percent. That Said, Boomers Are Still Expected To Outvote Millennials This Year. [Vox, 4/30/16]


While The Growth In The Number Of Millennials Who Are Eligible To Vote Underscores The Potential Electoral Clout Of Today’s Young Adults, Millennials Remain Far From The Largest Generational Bloc Of Actual Voters. It Is One Thing To Be Eligible To Vote And Another Entirely To Cast A Ballot. [PewResearch, 5/16/16]

So, less than three months from a national election, where does that leave us? I guess time will tell. If history is precedent and Millennials continue to be outvoted by Boomers and Gen Xers, maybe the Republicans won’t get bitten on the environmental issue. Not this year anyway. But even a lot of Republican sages are saying that Millennials’ attitudes will have to be respected and accounted for in future elections.

Republican Pollster Bill Mcinturff : “I Kind Of Hate To Say It, But The Millennial Generation Is Now Important. Their Views Are Becoming The Dominant Public Views. Their Attitudes About Gay Marriage And Social Tolerance Are Radically Different Than The Previous Generations, And They Are Restructuring Our Views.” [NextGen Climate, 4/29/16]

Then again, it’s entirely possible that jobs, the economy, terrorism, foreign policy, e-mail servers, personal tax returns and an unending barrage of personal attacks will overshadow the environment this time as a tipping point for presidential voters. The first debate in September should be a good indicator. If that happens, watch for energy and environment to bubble up instead as issues further down the ballot in states that produce large amounts of fossil fuels (West Virginia, Kentucky, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado) as well as those where renewable energy sources are plentiful (California, Arizona, Nevada).

But whether or not energy, climate change and the environment become flashpoints in this year’s national election, two facts remain. First, energy and the environment is one of the rare issues that affect everyone, independent of wealth, race, age, party affiliation, sexual orientation or religion. Without a healthy planet, none of that other stuff is going to matter. Second, the strength and political influence of the Millennial Generation is going to do nothing but grow in the coming years. And Millennials care about our planet. Deeply.

Any politician, party or political entity that fails to recognize those facts moving forward does so at their own peril. The same goes for any company, group or institution whose existence is affected by the decisions those politicians and parties make (and I can’t think of any that aren’t).

However, those who do speak, and act, responsibly to those concerns will be heard by the most environmentally aware generation America has ever produced.


How we win … and what we won.

Saying we’re going to win for our clients, and ourselves, is easy. It’s the doing it part that’s hard. It takes talent, work, patience, perseverance, passion and a dogged refusal to settle for anything less.

We win by being smart. We win by getting smarter. We win with ideas. We win with creativity. And we win with hard work. So far in 2016, we’ve done a lot and we’ve won a lot.

Kneaders header
UMUC logo




Take a look.


Sometimes winning literally means winning. As in awards. This year, we’ve taken more than our share.

  • National ADDY − Boeing – Branded Content and Entertainment
  • Radio Mercury Awards – LVCVA National Finalist
  • District 15 ADDYs – LVCVA − 2 Gold
  • SNWA – 6 Gold, 2 Silver
  • Salt Lake City ADDYs – UTA − Radio Campaign of the Year
  • UTA – 2 Gold
  • Barrick Gold – 3 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 District Silver
  • Days of 47 Rodeo – 2 Silver
  • Utah Dept. Health – 1 Gold, 2 Silver
  • Utah Dept. of Public Safety – 1 Gold, 1 Silver
  • Phoenix ADDYs – R&R Self Promo – 3 Gold
  • Ford Vignale – 2 Gold
  • Las Vegas ADDYs – LVCVA – Judges’ Choice Award
  • LVCVA – 5 Gold, 5 Silver, 7 Bronze
  • SNWA – 5 Gold, 4 Silver, 1 Bronze
  • Las Vegas Animal Foundation – 1 Silver

Plus numerous other national awards (Appys, Travvys, etc.) for LVCVA and Boeing.

Sadly, El Nino didn’t save us.

It all sounded so hopeful. Last autumn all the talk was about the “Godzilla of El Ninos,” forming in the Pacific Ocean and preparing to bring all of us in the western U.S. a winter positively brimming with wet, wonderful precipitation. Rain in the valleys, snow in the mountains and water everywhere the eye could see.

Meteorologists and climatologists were lining up to tell us that the models they were working on portended an El Nino unlike any we had seen since the record winter of 1997-98. States including California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado that had been suffering under the jackboot of the worst drought any of us had experienced for more than a decade would finally see some relief.

It was going to be glorious.

Except, it wasn’t. In June, as we look back on the El Nino winter of 2015-16, it seems that Godzilla underachieved. Granted, the news wasn’t all bad. The Pacific Northwest had a very wet year. But that’s Washington and Oregon. Their situation isn’t nearly as dire as ours. Closer to home, rainfall in Northern California actually had what has been described as “near normal” rainfall during the season. The nature of the drought is such that a year of “near normal” is now considered cause for celebration. But, many of Northern California’s reservoirs did receive a nice jolt of new water. And that’s a very good thing.

But things were much less rosy elsewhere. The snowpack in California’s mountains was still 14% below normal for the year. Even more disappointing, the seasonal rainfall in Los Angeles was 6.59 inches. Normal for the area is 13.54 inches.

Things were no better – and no wetter – in Arizona. Arizona’s mountains recorded a less-than-normal snowpack for the sixth consecutive year, even after a very promising start to the season. Nevada had a year very much like California’s. Not bad in the mountains and lakes of Northern Nevada. But in Southern Nevada – well, it never rains or snows very much in Southern Nevada anyway.

Which brings us to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado – where the winter snowpack determines how much water will flow down the Colorado River into Lake Mead and ultimately to the millions of homes, businesses and farms in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah – even Mexico – that depend on it as their primary source.

Again, we are forced to wonder what might have been. As in Arizona and California, the year in the Rockies got off to a very promising start. But in the months after that… more disappointments. When all was said and done, the snowpack fell 20% short of what is considered normal. Even worse, a warm March caused much of the snowpack to melt too quickly and too early to really make a difference in the downstream reservoirs like Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Granted, the region did have a very cool and wet month of May, but by then, the damage to the snowpack had been done.

Lake Mead 3[5]

Put simply, Big Daddy Drought had slapped El Nino on the butt.

There is no greater evidence of that than in the declining reserves in Lake Mead. In May of 2016, the level of the lake was measured at 1074 feet, the lowest since Hoover Dam had been completed. That level is expected to go down another five feet by the end of June. On a more optimistic note, due to some late season runoff and some extra stores that will be allowed to flow into the lake by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, it is anticipated that its level will measure 1078 feet by year’s end. That’s an important number, because it the lake measures at 1075 or less at the end of this year, it will trigger new – and harsher – restrictions on its use by all of us who depend on it for water. Cross your fingers now.

Lake Mead 1[8]

So, El Nino didn’t save us. What now?   We have to continue to save ourselves. Water authorities and purveyors throughout the region need to continue to fight the good fight. Research has always shown that people in a drought-stricken area are enthusiastic to jump in and be part of the solution. They just need to know what to do, and trust that all of their neighbors are also contributing. If the drought has taught us nothing else, it has instilled in everyone in the region an awareness of the problem and a mindset to aid in the solution. Water smart habits were slowly but surely being formed. It’s vital that we keep that momentum going.

Our client, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) is about to introduce an aggressive new water-saving program this summer, while continuing the other sustainable water management programs we have established over the past two decades that have resulted in some astounding savings. But we in Southern Nevada are old hands at drought, and the SNWA is viewed internationally as a leader in water conservation programs and marketing.

The key is that people, businesses and governments in all of the areas that depend on water that we all hope nature will deliver adopt a similar mindset and attitude, proactively changing behavior to conform to a reality that we’re ultimately going to have to save ourselves.

Because now we know one thing for sure – El Nino isn’t coming to the rescue anytime soon.

The Big Fat Prize − 2016

Great Work … Tough Decision

snwaTeamIn each of the last five years, R&R Partners has awarded what we affectionately call The Big Fat Prize. It is an annual cash award presented to the team that created the campaign or initiative that most exemplified our philosophy of building and protecting our clients’ brands. Winning requires excellence in strategic insight and thinking, the quality of the work itself and, of course, results.

The rules are simple. Entries are limited to one 8 ½ x 11 page. No fewer than three, but no more than five, finalists are chosen to present to the judges. Presentations have one rule – they cannot exceed 30 minutes. The judges are president and chief brand officer Mary Ann Mele, SVP/strategic consulting David Ellis and me.

This year, seven entries were submitted, one of them delivered by Brandi Skrtich’s dog Buddy (a very good dog). Three were ultimately selected as finalists.

And so on Wednesday, February 17, teams representing the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Nothing’s Sexier Than Saving Water Compliance Campaign, Boeing’s new corporate website, and the Clark County Animal Foundation’s In-Fur-mercial campaign brought their best to the judges in a series of three 30-minute presentations.

Then the hard work began. Never before in its Big Fat history has it been more difficult for the judges to choose a Big Fat Prize winner. For the SNWA, it was a campaign that overcame some early obstacles to ultimately create $14 million in earned media (40 times the media spend) and, most importantly, motivate Southern Nevadans to save more than 1.5 billion gallons of water in the span of just two weeks. Or the Boeing team, who was faced with the daunting task of consolidating 22 separate sites and more than 11,000 pages of content into one cohesive site of fewer than 1,000 pages with fully functional desktop, tablet and mobile versions. Finally, there was the Animal Foundation team, who tackled their pro bono project with virtually no budget whatsoever and managed to turn the fortunes of the client around with some of the most unexpected and inspired creative seen in that or any other category for quite some time. In fact, their use of the time-honored infomercial format to promote pet adoptions was so spot-on, they actually won a special award from the Electronic Retailing Association (basically, the infomercial industry) in a competition they didn’t even enter.

In truth, any of the finalists would have made a very appropriate Big Fat Prize winner. All three presentations were excellently done, every entry produced results that R&R will proudly promote well into the future, and the work at the center of each was strategically based and incredibly smart.

But the rules say we had to pick a winner, and after three days of thought and discussion, the SNWA finished ahead by the narrowest of margins. It was the toughest and closest call that the Big Fat judges have ever had to make.

Perception, reality … and Ciudad Juarez

To be honest, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about visiting Ciudad Juarez. Perceptions can do that to you. Color your opinions. Sway your feelings. Paint a picture in your head that may, or may not, have anything to do with its reality.

That’s how it was between me and Ciudad Juarez. Here’s the thing. I’ve binged on The Bridge on television. I sat in my local multiplex for a matinee showing of Sicario. I’ve listened to the music of At the Drive-In. I’ve been on more than one Southwest flight leaving El Paso and flying directly over one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. And I’ve seen the news reports over the last 10 years of drug cartel violence throughout Mexico, but especially within Juarez.

It all added up to a pretty scary picture. A picture I was more than willing to hold as the truth until I learned that we had signed Ciudad Juarez as a client. It was now our job to take the perception I just described and turn it around. Mold it into a narrative that describes today’s realities while acknowledging yesterday’s reputation.

  1. Perception and persuasion are what we do, after all. But this was uncharted territory for me. Did I have the wrong idea about the city? Was the reality of Juarez in direct opposition to my media-fed beliefs? I was about to find out.

The project began last December in a conference room in our Las Vegas office. I spent the better part of a day with 11 representatives from Juarez (and probably 10 or 11 of us – the room was pretty crowded) talking about challenges, goals and aspirations for their city. The day was a revelation. The people from Juarez were a joy – smart, friendly, articulate, open, and most importantly – honest. They were under no illusions. They knew their city was suffering from a problem of perception. And they fully acknowledged that, during the worst days of cartel violence, their reputation was well earned.

But in the course of that day, while we worked on the messaging strategies to begin convincing business owners and site selectors that Juarez is a hard-working city that deserves a closer look as a smart, and safe, place to do business, they managed to convince me that the situation in their city is changing. While still not perfect, the violence and the threats have decreased significantly over the past five or six years. And the attributes that make the city a strategically solid location for certain types of businesses (primarily manufacturing and distribution, with aspirations to high-tech in the near future) were still very much in place.

So on that day, we all agreed: Our first priority is changing the conversation from what’s wrong with Juarez to what’s right with the city.

Jump forward in time a month. The initial strategic work was done. Now it was time to travel to Juarez and present our recommendations. And as I’ve already stated, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about traveling into the city that once had the highest murder rate in North America. But there are times when you just have to journey into the belly of the beast − only to discover the beast isn’t so scary after all.

IMG_0272 The day began in a conference room inside the city’s sparkling new children’s museum. That facility alone almost re-wrote the entire narrative for me. It is a children’s museum that any city – I repeat, any city – would be immensely proud to call their own. It was staffed by a professional and courteous team and by 10 that morning, was filled with the voices of hundreds of school kids there on field trips to learn about their city, their history, their environment and their heritage. It was no coincidence that this beautiful new facility was the site for our meeting. It was stunning physical proof of all arguments we will soon be making on their behalf.

After the presentation came a tour of the city. I would never go so far as to describe Ciudad Juarez as beautiful. But it isn’t frightening or depressing either. It’s clear that this is a city that works for a living. We saw wide streets, working-class neighborhoods, familiar brand names (Buffalo Wild Wings, McDonald’s) and many of the horizontal two- and three-story factories, or maquiladoras, that are the center of its economy. And throughout, there were people out and about, going about their daily lives. The fears of six or seven years ago were nowhere in evidence. We ended the day driving past the university and touring an exciting new technology center that will help lead them into the future. I never felt less than completely safe.


The day ended with an hour-and-a-half wait at the border checkpoint to get back across the Rio Grande (or the Rio Bravo, if you’re on the Mexican side of it) and into the United States. While we were waiting, I asked the polite and well-spoken young woman who had been tasked with driving me back to El Paso what exactly had happened to quell so much of the violence. She said that the law-abiding leaders of the city and its business community had simply decided enough was enough and slowly but surely, they were taking their city back. Showing my natural skepticism, I asked if it was also the result of one of the two warring cartels actually winning and driving their rivals out of the city. She admitted that was a big factor as well. I’m guessing it’s some combination of the two.


But in the end, does it really matter? The fact is, that while still battling many issues, Ciudad Juarez is definitely a city on its way back. Its citizens combine a powerful work ethic with resilience and pride that have allowed them to create a new reality that lies in stark contrast to the violent and negative perceptions.

I was able to see that on my day in Juarez. Now it’s time for us to help them show that reality to the rest of the world.

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.

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:

How to channel your reach to today’s “TV” viewer

You can still reach the people who watch popular television shows. Just don’t use television to do it.

Many people are saying that we are in another Golden Age of Television. I can’t argue. It’s difficult to remember when there has been as much good, and varied, episodic programming available at any given time.

I’m even watching. I’ve just finished the most recent seasons of two great shows and right now I’m neck deep in two others. Just finished season 4 of Showtime’s Homeland and season 3 of Netflix’s House of Cards. I’m currently in the middle of AMC’s first season of Better Call Saul and HBO’s amazing six-part documentary, The Jinx. The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.

I know. There’s nothing terribly notable about any of that. They’re all very popular shows, watched by many. But for me, the interesting thing is how I’m watching them. I saw downloads of Homeland on my laptop, mostly on airplanes. House of Cards came via Netflix and my Roku. I’m catching up with Better Call Saul using my cable company’s On Demand service after AMC has actually broadcast the episodes. And I’m seeing The Jinx on HBO GO, HBO’s anytime streaming service.

So, the final count is one via laptop, two using Roku and one from On Demand. Four series, and I haven’t watched a single episode of any of them on “traditional television” as we know it. And I’m 60 years old. Not exactly a “digital early adopter.”

Does that mean that − outside of live sports, news and special events − there’s no way for a marketer to reach someone like me using popular episodic television programming? Well, yes and no. Or maybe the answer is maybe. Traditional TV ads certainly won’t work. Netflix, Showtime and HBO don’t even offer them, and the ads on my On Demand replays of Better Call Saul get the “fast-forward” treatment every time (sorry Capital One and CarMax).

But I believe there are other routes to a television viewer’s mind. Because in today’s world of binge-watching, digital-streaming, on-demand television, many viewers don’t stop at passively watching the episodes. They like to read about them, talk about them and argue about them. Online. With the thousands of others who share their passion for the latest dastardly deeds of Francis and Claire Underwood, the infuriating loose-cannon behavior of CIA Station Chief Carrie Mathieson, or the true meaning of Rust Cole’s latest monologue (I’m wide open to any help I can get on that one).

But that’s just the beginning. Twitter is always filled with discussions after episodes of popular shows have aired. And I can’t even imagine how many subreddit threads are devoted to Game of Thrones. In fact, if all of the sites, discussion boards, threads and digital space devoted just to Game of Thrones were amalgamated in one place, it would constitute a “Westeros Internet” unto itself.

There are reviews, discussions, updates and news about television all over the Web. I know one of the first things I want to do after an episode of Better Call Saul or Homeland is go to The AV Club for the latest review and discussion of said episode. So if a marketer wants to find me and other Homeland fans, that’s where we’ll be – again and again. And that’s where you can market to us, if you do it right.

Which means not just throwing mindless banner ads or annoying pre-rolls at us. Understand why we’re there and tap into it. Use our interest in and devotion to Sons of Anarchy or Mad Men or True Detective or whatever else it is we’re there to talk about and engage us. Odds are good we’ll pay attention.

The point is, today’s popular episodic television constitutes a culturewide shared experience as much as it ever has. But instead of gathering around the water cooler to talk about last night’s installment of Twin Peaks or Hill Street Blues, we’re sitting at our keyboards or grabbing our smartphones to discuss the hilarious white linen “Matlock” suit Jimmy McGill (aka Saul Goodman) wore at the assisted living facility last Monday night.

Shared experience can also be shared passion. Which can be an open door for marketers who understand who’s watching what. And why.