The Active Agency: Advertising Firm Takes Up a Green Cause

10/27/2014 03:18 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

There's no rule that states advertising agencies should stick to advertising. Why shouldn't they sometimes use their messaging prowess for other ventures?

Think about it: Most ad agencies are filled with brilliant communicators. They are adept at reaching a specific target audience, and in getting that audience to effect change in its behavior. So when those at an ad agency feel passionate about a certain issue, it kind of almost feels natural that they'd do something about it.

Take the folks over at Odysseus Arms, for example. Libby Brockhoff and Franklin Tipton are co-founders of the San Francisco firm this year named AdAge's Agency of the Year for their division.

So, yeah, they're pretty good at what they do.

When they decided to get involved in their passion -- the Clean Power Plan -- the results were, as expected, powerful. The agency backed a project that is as simple as it is innovative.

Meet,, the website is a singular goal of educating voters on the one thing they need to know if they care about clean power -- whom to vote for.


The website specifically targets Millennials, who are the largest voter group in the US. Survey results show that voters are more often making their decisions based on issues rather than candidates, and climate change has been tabbed as a top-tier issue for the upcoming elections.

Odyssues Arms and HackTheElection had the mission of reaching those Millennial voters and telling them who to vote for if clean power was their issue of choice.

"We're an ad agency. This time we're trying sell turning out to vote as a novel thing to do," Tipton said. "Inventing this voter tool just seemed like the right thing to do. But it's fun knowing who to vote for, for once. We're not environmentalists, but we knew two things; one, that power companies are allowed to pump out unlimited Co2, which cannot be good. And two, 86 percent of millennials will vote to support the brand new Clean Power Plan. We have this theory about voter turnout: if you believe in something and know who to vote for, you're automatically complicit. You must then act or you're helping the other side."

How does it work? You'll probably love its simplicity.

Boiled down, it takes the IP address of the website visitor and cross-references that location with the applicable races in their area. After doing that, it spits out the candidates who have come out in support of the Clean Power Plan.


The coding behind the website is quite complex, but the outcome is unmistakably straightforward. "The code was cooked up in a dorm room at Stanford," Tipton said. "People over 30 seem to bristle at the idea of hacking anything. People under 30 seem to love it because it sounds subversive. Hacking an election in any form is fascinating. We're Life-hacking."

It's worth noting, to get the name of the correct candidate(s), you should visit the website from your home address. Other than that, it's simply: Visit the website, get the name, go vote.

That's all Odysseus Arms wanted from this project, and it certainly feels like a passing grade from here. But what else should we expect from people who are adept at delivering the right message to the right audience.

Ad agencies should do this more often. They're pretty good at it.