The Alliance to Save Energy is promoting conservation to the same audience that is hooked on the movies "The Incredibles" and "Fantastic Four."
The District-based group is rolling out a new public service ad campaign and interactive Web site this summer. "Perhaps Super Heroes with Super Powers can save the day and come to the rescue with energy solutions as our nation battles high energy prices, galloping demand, tight supplies, increased pollution, and energy security threats," the alliance's promotional materials say.
The only thing is, masked marvels "Gene" and "Louise" are super-bumblers when it comes to saving energy. By contrast, the ads show the average guys next door demonstrating how to do it.
"We obviously have a very serious energy problem in this country. But we wanted to use humor to get people thinking about how they can cut energy bills simply, easily and comfortably," said Rozanne Weissman, director of communications for the alliance.
The campaign, which got underway last week, is a big departure from the group's first ads, which aired in the late 1970s in response to the energy crisis that followed the Arab oil embargo. Those ads featured actor Gregory Peck warning of the serious consequences of wasting energy. The theme was, "Don't blow it, America."
But Weissman said the group has changed its approach over the years as the energy crisis abated and then returned. "This is not the old image of Jimmy Carter telling you to turn down the thermostat. It's not about sacrifice and deprivation. It's about using technology that's widely available," she said.
The alliance, a nonprofit coalition of business, government, environmental and consumer leaders, works to promote energy efficiency and the use of energy-efficient Energy Star products and appliances. It also seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"We hope to capture people's attention," not only through the TV and radio spots but with a new Web site, www.projectsuperpowers.org, Weissman said.
The site weaves in episodes from the TV ads with online adventures where scientists test the energy-saving potential of superpowers. Viewers can invent superheroes and powers, e-mail episodes to friends and publish on the site, said John Bell, senior vice president and creative director of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. The company's Washington office developed the campaign.
"The site was meant to be fun and quirky," Bell said.
In one TV spot, super-macho Gene, dressed in blue tights and laser-vision glasses, messes up when he's trying to cook a turkey with his heat vision. He ends up torching the turkey and a nearby towel.
Louise, described as Gene's "equally buff wife," carries an orb that can light up a room without electricity. But the blonde beacon goes overboard when her daughter wants to read in a room that the family keeps dark in their mistaken zeal to conserve energy. Louise nearly blinds the girl and her dog.
As they try their wacky best, normal neighbor Bob shows how easy it is to use technology -- such as a programmable thermostat -- to save power.
The four Web episodes involve other characters, including Edith the "storm girl," who tries to use wind and rain to clean the house. The Web site also leads to serious energy-saving tips at www.ase.org.
* Listen to your mother. ("What do you think -- we own the electric company?") Turn off everything not in use -- lights, televisions, computers, electronics.
* "4 for the Planet": Replace your four most-used 100-watt incandescent bulbs with comparable 23-watt compact fluorescent bulbs to save $108 over three years.
* Energy Star products: The average household spends about $1,400 each year on energy bills. By choosing Energy Star-qualified products, consumers can cut those bills by 30 percent, saving about $400 each year.
* Energy "vampires": Many idle electronics -- TVs, VCRs, DVD and CD players, cordless phones, microwaves -- use energy even when switched off to keep display clocks lit and memory chips and remote controls working. Nationally, these energy "vampires" use 5 percent of the nation's domestic energy and cost consumers $3 billion annually.
* Cold water: From 80 to 85 percent of the energy used to wash clothes comes from heating the water. Using warm or cool water instead will save money and get clothes just as clean.