Public Safety Campaign

Powerco – Public Safety Campaign

Powerco’s energy assets are highly visible in the communities it serves, yet incidents have shown the public is not always aware of the associated hazards.

The energy distributor’s former cartoon-based advertising was deemed ineffective. Not only was it dated, but it was too detailed and its visuals and messaging were cluttered and confusing.

Safety is Powerco’s first key value and the company wanted a campaign that reflected this. It conducted extensive research into its new safety campaign in order to ensure it was as wide-reaching and effective as possible.

This involved reviewing and analysing records of electricity or gas-related fatalities, injuries, incidents and near-misses. The firm also researched other network company programmes and conducted interviews with key risk groups.

The new public safety campaign uses a variety of ‘real people’ photographs, accompanied by hard-hitting messages. The images and messages were tested with audiences, and it was found that bold, attention-grabbing, short, sharp statements communicated safety messages most successfully.


Four target audiences were identified: the general public, the agricultural and horticultural industries, third-party contractors, and school children. Unique approaches were tailored to each to gain maximum impact.

A report commissioned by WorkSafe NZ on health and safety attitudes and behaviours in agriculture was used to inform how Powerco communicated safety messages to farmers.

Interaction needed to be authentic and true to life. Federated Farmers dairy group chair Andrew Hoggard, who owns a 300-hectare farm near Feilding, was chosen to be the face of the campaign.

The main message was ‘complacency around power lines can kill’. The safety initiative was the focus of the company’s stand at the Central Districts Field Days event in March.

The Wheel of Misfortune was used at Central Districts and Mystery Creek field days in 2015. Everyone who spun the wheel landed on a safety message, giving staff an opportunity to speak to individuals about important safety issues.

A summer safety in the home campaign was aimed at the general public, highlighting the need for people to think about overhead power lines. While keeping a serious message, Powerco added a humorous twist to keep in-step with the relaxed feel of summer.

Artworks associating the hazards of electricity with dangerous creatures were painted on four transformers in high-profile locations around New Plymouth’s CBD. Each includes a safety message warning people to stay clear of the transformers.

To encourage the youngest audience, Powerco developed a school safety programme with a real-life cartoon character called Sparky, who takes the stage at school assemblies to show children what to do if they see anything dangerous.

A Sparky safety video, comic strip book and cinema advertising have also been developed, along with a website, launched last year, which is packed with interactive games and activities.


Powerco says the current campaign strategies are achieving significant engagement with the public and reaching target audiences. It has also seen buy-ins from some smaller electricity distributors.

Powerco has made the intellectual property available to other lines companies at no cost, with the aim of building a national awareness of the risks surrounding electricity and gas assets, and keeping New Zealanders safe.

The Health and Safety Initiative of the Year award category is sponsored by Nexans