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Buying Greenvertising

  |  June 5, 2007   |  Comments

The right way for media buyers to place clients in environmentally friendly Web sites.

If you feel like you've been seeing a lot more green-themed advertising lately, you're not alone. Over the past quarter, green advertising -- greenvertising -- buys have seen a surge both online and off-. What's green? What's driving the demand? What are the considerations? Where online should green campaigns be run? There's a lot going on out there. Let's take a look.

What's Green?

Green can be tough to define. The most obvious definition pertains to our climate and environment, but it can also pertain to health (organic foods, nontoxic substances) and wellness (botanicals, homeopathies). Companies embracing green may advertise with a variety of green messages.

Why Now?

Green has gone mainstream. Several factors have contributed to the rise in greenvertising, driven by growing consumer awareness. Most experts attribute the new consciousness to Al Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," and visual evidence, both environmental and health-related.

"Two years ago our advertiser presentations talked about reaching a tipping point. That tipping point has now arrived," says Christine Engelbrechtsen, VP of integrated sales and marketing for Lime. Says MSNBC.com's VP of sales, Kyoo Kim, "We have seen tremendous interest from advertisers through their RFPs requesting our environmental content and anything we're doing around green content."

The consensus is green won't be short lived, either. Companies have heavily invested in legitimate green initiatives (think automotive manufacturers), and their advertising now reflects this. "Establishing your green cred is now just part of doing business, especially with the youth market," says analyst Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence.


There are different ends of the green spectrum: the consumer just getting interested in green (light green) and savvy consumers deeply vested in green lifestyles (deep green or greenies). Advertisers need to tailor their messages accordingly.

"The mass-market consumer needs more general education ad messaging, while the greenie needs more specific information to back up the advertiser's claims," says Holly Bornstein, director of marketing for CleanWell. Kim agrees: "Corporations are helping to empower users to truly partake in green causes through more subtle educational marketing...providing functional knowledge and tips to better their daily lives."

According to research by "USA Today," "one of the biggest problems consumers have with the 'green movement' is that it's expensive and often hard to find products that are environmentally-friendly." Laryssa Kundanmal, VP integrated product marketing for "USA Today," says this "suggests that marketers should focus more messaging on how the average consumer can make a difference and do it without spending a lot more."

Those in the business of green also mention greenwashing, when companies just slap a green label on themselves or their products or services. Most feel that as the public also becomes more educated, such false advertising will ultimately backfire. The word "integrity" is used often when describing greenvertising. False ad claims might even be outed on such community sites as Grist. "If the ad campaign fails because the ads are seen as unauthentic, the media buyer might be held accountable," cautions Bornstein.

Tips for Media Buyers

Obviously, greenvertising can be run on any site, so the target audience and ad messaging should drive the buy. You can reach the masses with a Yahoo home page buy and greenies with a Yahoo Green buy (Yahoo Green reinvests the proceeds from its advertising into global greening projects). Most mainstream sites offer contextual relevant sections appropriate for greenvertisements.

Grist warns that niche sites like itself aren't about the availability of millions of impressions at the lowest price. It reminds buyers they're getting access to a truly qualified audience of influencers, a potent buy.

Other niche green sites that sell advertising include:

  • Care2.com

    In many cases, blog advertising is also well-suited for greenvertising. As the green movement continues to grow, we can expect to see plenty more niche sites crop up.

    Whether any particular kind of ad format outperforms another in greenvertising remains to be seen. Lime is seeing particular success with video on demand and podcasting. Since information is the capstone of the green movement currently, sponsored content is another strong contender.

    Buying green should feel good right now, whether you're a consumer or a media buyer.

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    Hollis Thomases

    A ClickZ expert columnist since 2005, Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is president and founder of Maryland-based WebAdvantage.net, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing services, including online media planning, SEO, PPC campaign management, social media marketing, and Internet consulting. Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day and an award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis is the Maryland 2007 SBA Small Business Person of the Year. Hollis speaks extensively on online marketing, having presented for ClickZ, the American Marketing Association, SES, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, The Kelsey Group, and the Vocus Worldwide User Forum. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, K'NEX Construction Toys, and Visit Baltimore. The agency was recognized as a "Small Giant" by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and was chosen as a "Best Place for Business Women to Work" by "Smart Woman Magazine."

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