By Joe Smyth | firstname.lastname@example.org | @joesmyth
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association has a new response for electric cooperatives that might be considering a different wholesale power provider: an advertising campaign that tells co-ops they are "better together" with Tri-State. But despite the message in the ads, Tri-State appears to have developed the ad campaign on its own, and is even placing the "better together" ads in the service territories of its members co-ops without explicit permission from the co-ops.
Tri-State launched its new ad campaign as one of its member co-ops is seeking to exit its contract with Tri-State in order to pursue more local renewable energy projects and lower rates, while other Tri-State member co-ops are also considering other power suppliers. Last month, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission ruled that it would determine the amount Delta-Montrose Electric must pay to leave Tri-State.
The discussion at one co-op's monthly board meeting suggests that Tri-State developed and placed the "better together" ads without the input of its member co-ops. At the Mountain Parks Electric monthly board meeting on February 14, Communications Manager Rob Taylor gave an update to the board of directors about Tri-State 's advertising campaign, so that the co-op could "discuss whether or not we want to use it."
"Tri-State has started a new advertising campaign, and the theme is called “Better Together” and we have to discuss to decide if it’s the messaging we want. Currently our local messaging on our commercials are energy efficiency themed. But they have some radio ads that I wanted to share with you just so you could hear what their new message is. And again we have not started using this, but we have to discuss whether or not we want to use it."
But after the Mountain Parks Electric board of directors listened to the Tri-State radio ad that ended with the message "Tri-State and Mountain Parks Electric. Brighter, stronger, better together," one board director said that he had heard the same ad on the radio that morning.
Mountain Parks Electric directors and staff were surprised to learn that Tri-State had already placed ads that used the co-op's name. Taylor noted that Tri-State "did ask for our feedback on it, and I said we would need to talk at the staff level first. But I guess they already started doing it. But that’s news to me."
"Obviously they didn’t need the feedback," said one board director.
"If we don’t like that messaging, we can certainly call them and tell them we prefer they didn’t run that in our area, I think that’s up to us," said Taylor.
But this week, Tri-State ran more print ads in two Grand County newspapers that reach Mountain Parks Electric members, Winter Park Times and Sky-Hi News. The new ads don't mention Mountain Parks Electric, but say that "Tri-State and our family of electric cooperatives are working together to power your tomorrows. We are brighter, stronger, and better together."
Tri-State's "better together" ads are also displayed in the February edition of Colorado Country Life, a magazine produced by the Colorado Rural Electric Association that is distributed to hundreds of thousands of co-op members in Colorado, most of which are members of co-ops that buy power from Tri-State.
The ads were also published in the February edition of Enchantment, a similar magazine distributed to co-op members in New Mexico, and the February edition of the Rural Electric Nebraskan.
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