Paul Holmes 06 May 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
EVonyx is the metal-air fuel cell subsidiary of Reveo Inc., an Elmsford, NY-based research, development and commercialization company focused on cutting-edge energy technologies that benefit humanity. EVonyx’s “Revolutionary Power Cell (RPC)” offers low-cost, pollution-free energy to people in the industrialized and developing worlds. The RPC is based on metal-air electrochemistry regarded as superior to existing fuel cell and battery technologies. For example, the RPC generates more power and energy at dramatically lower cost than fuel cells and batteries; it is “scalable”, which means it can be used across the full spectrum of power, from flashlights to automobiles; it is environmentally benign; and unlike other fuel cells, it can be recharged like a battery.
Weber Shandwick was hired to promote the RPC to business, governmental, scientific, and general audiences as a “revolutionary alternative energy form” and to establish EVonyx as a top-of-mind humanitarian technology company among these audiences.
There were several challenges to the program. First among them was managing the client’s high expectations for publicity and acceptance. Within the energy industry, for example, there were well-established, competing technologies such as the PEM Fuel Cell now being developed by the major automakers.
A second, related challenge was the steep learning curve that existed for all audiences: EVonyx was an unknown company with a new technology. A broad, substantive awareness effort needed to be among our initial program elements.
A third challenge for our team was that we were operating under a very aggressive, fixed timetable tied to financing and government calendars (The US Department of Energy and Congress had limited appropriations available for alternative energy development, which our client wanted to pursue. Given the high learning curve for this audience, an aggressive launch program was needed.
EVonyx, Inc had four primary objectives for the program:
Promote the concept of emission-free non-hydrogen fuel cells specifically the RPC
Promote the concepts of zinc-air fuel cells, clean energy research and development, and humanity-focused scientific
Introduce and promote EVonyx as the “Partner of Choice” for companies of all sizes and industries interested in clean-energy alternatives
Promote EVonyx as a premier destination for investment and for a possible IPO in late-2001
Target audiences included audience environmental experts, the scientific community, businesses with products lines requiring energy, potential investors, government officials, and the general public.
Weber Shandwick conducted research into the alternative energy arena to determine the competitive landscape, potential champions, and public awareness of the alternative energy issue and specific alternative technologies. We found high competition, an untapped cadre of champions, and high public awareness of energy crunch/low understanding of specific alternative technologies. These findings informed our strategic approach to the EVonyx/RPC campaign.
Identify the RPC with the current national debate on energy. With rising fuel costs a major factor in the 2000 presidential campaign, Weber Shandwick sought to position the RPC as a solution to the tightening foreign supply of fossil fuels and continued US dependence on those sources.
Build support among environmental, scientific and governmental experts. A new technology, the RPC needed to establish quickly credibility and viability. By introducing the client and demonstrating the RPC directly to leading experts and gaining their support, we would be able to build broad acceptance.
Tap into public’s fascination with endurance and innovation. Introduce the RPC to the world through a record-setting demonstration in a retrofitted automobile.
At the outset of the relationship, Weber Shandwick conducted a message development exercise with the client to determine the central themes of the campaign.
Launch Program: Weber Shandwick drew from our research and strategic approach and proposed to the client a large-scale public demonstration to launch the campaign: a family car would be retro-fitted with the RPC technology and driven from Edison, NJ (the original site of Thomas Edison’s laboratory) to Detroit, MI; roughly a 630-mile drive. We negotiated with the Guinness Book of World Records that the trip would establish a new record.
We organized a send off in Edison featuring students, community leaders, the Guinness people, and the Society of Automotive Engineers (who would certify the mileage for Guinness). A Video crew shot b-roll for a subsequent Video News Release. An end-of-trip celebration was planned at the Automotive Hall of Fame, and a press briefing was planned at Tavern on the Green in New York for the following day. We also landed a feature for the client on CBS “This Morning”: an interview the EVonyx CEO and a feature on the RPC car.
Mindshare Program: Immediately following the successful launch demonstration, Weber Shandwick arranged for the client to present their technology to key decision-makers in Washington. A previously unknown company would now be in the Oval Office—literally. We arranged separate meetings for the client with the President’s Chief Domestic Policy Advisor, the top energy official at the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, and the alternative energy chief for the US Department of Energy (DOE). During the client’s “Day in Washington”, Weber Shandwick also arranged for as meeting with a key potential champion, the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Weber Shandwick also arranged for the CEO to deliver a major speech before the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Earth Technologies Forum,” the most prominent gathering of scientists, environmental advocates and business leaders in the US. The speech was a major step in increasing the viability and credibility of the company among its most technical audiences.
The strategy of tapping the national energy debate worked—despite being wedded to an alternative technology, the DOE was so impressed with EVonyx and the RPC that they arranged for the client to address the alternative energy officials with the major automakers at a special meeting in Detroit, a key business-to-business deliverable.
The program was executed in a four-month timeframe (August –December 2000) and involved Weber Shandwick staff from Industrial, Public Affairs, Broadcast, and Consumer practice groups.
OBSTACLES AND EVALUATION
The program was a textbook combination of high-profile consumer events and strategic positioning with laser-targeted audiences. All major objectives were fulfilled: the demonstration resulted in major news coverage, the RPC car established a new Guinness World Record, policy-leaders in the energy community have accepted the RPC, and businesses the world over are flocking to EVonyx for their innovative energy solution.
The company is now in a quiet period preceding a planning summer public offering.