First Mercury and TBWA\ talked the Good Energy talk in February with the launch of a big TVC featuring Tiki Taane and his version of 'Over the Rainbow'. And it's backed that feelgood brand sentiment up in meat space as well, with all proceeds from downloads of the song going to Starship Foundation and a 'good samaritan' social experiment on the side of the road that showed how helpful Kiwis are. Now it's taking the karma bank concept to the city streets with the Good Energy Taxi, where rides are paid for by good deeds rather than cash. The fully wrapped bright yellow taxi hit the streets of Auckland yesterday and will be ferrying passengers around for the next two weeks. Passengers can ride for free as long as there’s credit on the ‘Good Energy’ meter in the cab, but if it's running low, there are a whole range of things they can do to give it a boost, like using good manners, sharing helpful tips or advice or partaking in some random acts of kindness.
Youtube VideoPeople at home can also give the meter a boost by liking it on Tequila's impressive Good Energy Taxi Facebook app, which showcases photos, videos and social media commentary alongside a map of the taxi’s location, or tweeting about it using #goodenergytaxi.
“Powering a taxi using good deeds alone wouldn’t work everywhere, but we believe Kiwis can pull it off," says Mercury Energy general manager, James Munro. "... We’re encouraging all Kiwis to get involved by going online and giving the meter a boost. And look out for the Good Energy Taxi. You could be the next lucky passenger.”
Tequila\'s creative director Ross Howard says it's not just smoke and mirrors, either. There's a lot of geekery and "algorithmic stuff" going on behind the scenes to make sure all the good energy data gets transferred both to the car and to the Facebook page.
He says the idea behind the broken down car experiment was basically to try and create some kind of good energy barometer, but they thought they could use the same good energy to try and power something (initially they wanted to use one of Nissan's electric Leaf models, but because it hadn't been launched here they went with a Prius, which, fittingly, also has a "kind of virtual energy aspect to it").
In theory, he says the cab can run out of juice if there's not enough love being shown, but the driver can push a button on an iPad in the cab running an app created by Tequila\to decide how much energy has been generated by the passengers. There are different scales of generation created by all those Tweeting and liking it online and, if worse comes to worst, they can also change how much energy each online comment generates.
There are also two HD cameras set up in the cab, as well as a GPS tracker, and for Howard, the project is a bit of a double whammee: the experiential element means a range of Kiwis will come into contact with the taxi in the next couple of weeks, but the final output will be a short documentary that captures the story of the cab in action.
Taxi Impact's general manager Tim Dove says he relished working with Tequila\ and Mercury (the wrap was printed by Omnigraphics and applied by GAS Graphics) on what is "a truly unique and exciting project".
"I think it's an idea that's well executed and should be very popular in the market," he says. "I mean, who doesn't love a free taxi? We're excited to demonstrate more of the potential that our taxi medium can offer."