Agency Execs Explore Green Strategies

Advertising_age_jpegThe International Advertising Association’s World Congress recently held a series of speeches and panels that emphasized what we’ve known for a while: consumers are interested in/respond to green marketing initiatives, but they are also critical of them.  Advertisers need to accept both an opportunity and a risk when "going green."

Posted April 9, 2008, Advertising Age
By Ira Teinowitz

Speakers Warn IAA World Congress Not to Antagonize Cynical Consumers

WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) — Consumers are increasingly interested in
green marketing initiatives, but they are also quite cynical, the
International Advertising Association’s World Congress was told
yesterday. That provides new opportunities for improving brand equity
and engaging consumers — but also lots of risk in getting it wrong.

In several speeches and panels, agency executives and a company
promoting carbon-neutral solutions said the potential benefits are
many, as consumers and businesses are willing to support marketers and
ad agencies perceived as being part of a better-world solution. It can
also raise the profiles of companies and lead to better image with
investors, they said.

At the same time, however, they cautioned that consumers are
suspicious, noting that companies have to show that any cause-related
marketing really ties to their brand and be careful not to overstate
claims.

Environmentalism goes mainstream
"Consumers expect companies
to give back as much as they take," said David Jones, global CEO of
Euro RSCG Worldwide. "Today it’s a mainstream issue." He cautioned that
companies need to have not only a strong position, but one that is
clear. "Be differentiated," he said. "This is one of more cluttered
areas of the world."

David_jones_jpegMr. Jones said that up to 86% of consumers believe that
companies should stand for something beyond profitability and 80%
believe that they should censure companies that don’t behave.

Mr. Jones said marketers can reap rewards not just from environmental
claims, but also other activities viewed as benefiting the world. He
cited successful examples of Unilever’s campaign for Dove celebrating
women of all shapes and sizes and Volkswagen’s European campaign for
car safety that includes warnings on cellphone use and drinking.

Get your story straight
Yet he also warned there are perils.
Mr. Jones cited General Motors Corp., which promoted electric cars in
development, and then said the cars will arrive later than projected,
as well as Greenpeace’s campaign that takes Apple’s friendly image to
task because some of its iPod products aren’t recyclable. He also
raised questions about how Unilever can on one hand suggest in Dove ads
that women should be celebrated for however they look, while at the
same time promote men’s deodorant brand Axeusing more traditional
female sex-symbol imagery.

Mark Armitage, U.S. president of the Carbon Neutral Co., which
promotes carbon-neutral solutions, said some companies have turned
carbon-neutral footprints into an asset that they can use as an
advantage in touting themselves to potential suppliers.

Success stories
Joe Rivas, exec VP of Y&R, said brands
that have made the move to social responsibility have done well, citing
Toyota and Ben & Jerry’s as examples.

Eric Biel, managing director-corporate responsibility for
Burson-Marsteller, agreed but cautioned that the public’s cynicism made
it incumbent on marketers trying to use the claims to be careful. "It
is absolutely critical to show a trace of humility," he said.

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