It’s been a long time since I’ve seen water companies advertising on TV. In fact the last water-related ads I clearly remember were when the England and Wales water industry was being privatised over 20 years ago. Yorkshire Water’s current Edna and Mary advertising campaign is a world apart from the old rather flashy, Handel’s Water Music-driven ads that accompanied the privatisation process however!

Even seeing Yorkshire’s TV ad campaign is one of the benefits of my living in one water company area and working in another. Not only do I get to use and taste different water from different suppliers on almost a daily basis; I also get to see how different water companies promote themselves through adverts, billing, metering services and so on. (Having said that, it’s been a while since my last personal United Utilities bills, but the service approach was far less personal and responsive than it became when I moved into Yorkshire’s zone, that’s for certain…)

Yorkshire’s Edna and Mary approach is unashamedly parochial – far more so than any UU materials I can recall in the past decade or so. It also attempts to use humour as an entry point to education and learning about the water industry and the water cycle. Sadly after having my eye caught via the TV ad, the actual Edna and Mary site turns out to be a fairly standard Flash-driven, ‘science-y’ type affair. It’s nothing like the Monty Python or League of Gentlemen allusions the TV ad had conjured up for me! Still it’s a fairly clear and informative batch of content in its own right – although it doesn’t really flag up any proactive, contentious or challenging issues like climate change or water resource pressures. The message is squarely in more passive ‘relax we’re on top of it on your behalf’ territory. That’s a bit of a wasted opportunity, if you ask me. Perhaps Yorkshire is pursuing such matters through other approaches or perhaps not…

It’d be interesting to know if Yorkshire’s move with this TV ad campaign is part of some wider strategy. Is it an attempt to cushion a blow of forthcoming price rises? If so will it lead to a backlash of public opinion rather than more thoughtful reflection on water-related issues? Are other water companies planning similar initiatives in parallel to price changes? I’m not sure. I’ll stay tuned.

If you happen to live within Yorkshire’s boundaries you may be able to catch the TV ad for yourself. If not, you can have a virtual tour of the material on Yorkshire’s website.

Update (15/11/2016): Some broken links fixed; YouTube embed added; featured image added from this source.

Duncan Thomas

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