Please visit to see the new & improved site.
Please visit to see the new & improved site.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sustainability in Advertising

How a company positions sustainability in advertising its products is likely to predominantly reflect the marketing team’s perception of how its customers rate sustainability in their buying decision. But corporate sustainability officers should be involved in how their company’s advertising portrays their approach to sustainability.

A look at the corporate adverts in Newsweek’s new year issue provides a great view of the spectrum of approaches.

Right up front with a paradigm changing approach, putting environmental sustainability front and center is an advert for Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, intended to be “the worlds first zero carbon, zero waste, car-free city powered by entirely renewable energy sources”.

ConocoPhillips and Shell have ads on clean energy. ConocoPhillips mentions carbon but has no reference to climate change. Shell’s ad takes more of a leadership position, talking specifically about climate change.

Sharp’s ad for Aquos TV and Toyota’s ad for the Camry lead on other product benefits, but include clear references to energy reduction and corresponding words and visual references to the environment in their marketing messages.

Interestingly, not least of all because many of them have plenty to say in this space, none of the tech company ads; Nokia, Bose, AT&T, Dell, Kyocera, Intuit, HP, contain any reference to environment or energy efficiency.

In the social sustainability space, Target has a four page ad focusing on traditional community investment and highlighting their significant employee, financial and in-kind contributions to local communities.

Bank of America takes a more contemporary approach to social sustainability. Rather than referring to their community service record, they highlight the dependency of the wellbeing of the company on the long term wellbeing of its customers ‘we care as much about helping to keep customers in their homes as we do in helping to get them there. If they don’t succeed, neither do we’.

None of the pharmacy ads (from Pfizer and Eli Lilly, Astra Zeneca) include sustainability angles. I am sure partly because the ads are more focused on product rather than company and because of the significant amount regulated information that has to be covered. Nevertheless, an interesting contrast.

Involvement from the sustainability team in advertising at the very least will ensure coverage of sustainability is consistent with CSR strategy. More ambitiously it will help drive a leadership role in sustainability rather than one that simply reacts to the market.

No comments:

Post a Comment