Building brands in a changing society

Solving the green marketer’s dilemma

Is it possible to be a good environmentalist and a good marketer?

It’s a question all of us in communications need to frequently ask ourselves because minimizing the amount of resources used for a marketing campaign (thus reducing the related carbon footprint) can certainly be a challenge.

Nicholas Austin, vp new business development at Fuel Advertising Inc. and a member of the Toronto Parks & Trees Foundation board of directors, states the problem this way: “Personally, it’s something I wrestle with every day surrounding how I make decisions, both in terms of personal behaviour and business behaviour,” he said.

The happy news is that across the advertising industry, agencies have begun to accumulate green successes. These include incorporating digital technologies, green vendors, recycling programs, and other sustainable practices into how they work – while still meeting clients’ objectives. Their efforts show that agencies can reduce their own carbon footprint and encourage clients to do so as well.

The people and efforts described here provided me with lots of ideas for making our industry more sustainable.

Using digital technologies

Digital technologies and the internet have changed virtually every area of advertising and marketing. One the biggest benefits of this digital revolution is that agencies can now drastically reduce the amount of production and pre-productions materials they use.

Cheryl Grishkewich, general manager of Taxi Canada Inc., states that going green requires buy-in from other participants. “It’s a challenge to the industry for production houses and photographers to reconsider the way that they market themselves, but it’s something that we feel passionate about.”

Taxi has developed its own database so that directors and photographers can post their materials online, replacing the need for huge printed photo decks. Grishkewich and her team consult this database when selecting freelancers for projects.

Judy Hamilton, vp/director creative services at Draftfcb Toronto, who has more than 15 years of production experience, recently held her first video casting session through Skype, an application that allows users to make calls via the internet. “Three years ago, I would have created a large carbon footprint by flying people in from Los Angeles, Calgary and Vancouver,” she said.

Shooting commercials is also going green. With the industry transition from 35mm film to digital, she explained, “everything gets recorded right to a hard drive and when I’m done with that hard drive, it’s reusable.” According to Hamilton, this system also eliminates the roughly dozen cans of used film that are typically discarded after a shoot.

Choosing green suppliers

Another key area of green advertising and marketing is to select vendors and products that meet certain environmental standards. Paper is a major area of concern, given that printed materials continue to be used widely. Many agencies are now sticking with paper certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council for both internal use and promotional materials.

At Draftfcb, some clients now have policies requiring materials to be printed on FSC-certified paper. They even ask us to track how much virgin pulp is used in marketing efforts on their behalf.

At Taxi, Grishkewich applies the same philosophy to all vendors. “When we seek out printers, we look for those with sustainable forestry practices certification. We look to partner with people in the industry who are doing everything they can to take the greenest approach.”

Recycling and reusing

Recycling and reusing are cornerstones of any agency-wide green initiative, and many programs and policies go far beyond double-sided printing.

Jane Tucker, partner/ director of client service at John St. Advertising in Toronto, cited printing business cards on old billboard materials and donating all old IT equipment to charity, in addition to providing water pitchers instead of bottled water and giving clients the option of purchasing giving clients the option of purchasing carbon offset credits for air travel to and from TV shoots. Such programs allow productions to offset the CO2 emissions generated by their energy usage and contribute to certified environmentally-friendly projects, such as green energy production and tree planting.

Hamilton ensures that all catering at Draftfcb stays as green as possible. Crews are expected to take china plates and silverware for their meals, with styrofoam provided only for those who must leave sets. “And whatever we don’t eat generally gets sent to Second Harvest or the shelters,” she added.

Better targeting

Ensuring that communications are getting into the hands of the right audience is another way to be efficient with resources. Direct mail combined with rigorous data practices fits the bill here.

“The marketer’s message will be well received by consumers if it’s relevant,” said Susan Moore, evp/chief operating officer at Wunderman Canada, who also sits on the Green Marketing Committee of the Canadian Marketing Association. “If we’re targeting, if we’re reaching a consumer who is high value and the mail is valued, people appreciate what we’re providing to them.”

Better targeting might mean a smaller mailing list but, by focusing on the best prospects, it adds up to a more effective direct mail campaign. “There are savings in following good data practices,” she said. “We should always be presenting those options to clients.”

A culture of green

Being good marketers and good environmentalists starts with an agency’s culture. “It’s about being aware of how we all personally operate so that, everyday, we live a little more green,” said Tucker, of John St.

Where it makes sense, agencies should always present clients with solutions that reflect the goal of being good environmentalists. As these industry examples and sentiments show, it is possible for agencies to implement sustainable and carbon-friendly practices, and pass the benefits on to clients. Ultimately we can be good environmentalists as well as marketers.


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