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By Ilana Lipsett
Fall TV means: finally new episodes of Parks and Recreation, no longer seeing my football fan friends on Sundays, and NBC’s 5th annual Green Week, scheduled for November 13-20. NBC executives have declared that “Green is universal,” backing up this catchphrase with two weeks a year (the other week is in the spring) of programming that incorporates sustainability-related storylines, Public Service Ads from popular TV figures, cameos by the likes of Al Gore, and ads showcasing green companies or products.
Having just watched Morgan Spurlock’s “Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” I’ve begun noticing product placement more. But it got me wondering – since Hollywood and the entertainment industry elite are a preachy bunch of liberal, global-warming fear mongerers, why isn’t there more green product and behavior placement? Why limit it to two weeks a year on one network and its affiliates?
Much of Hollywood has rebuffed an EPA-funded effort to encourage incorporating behavior placement into movies by “having actors bring cloth bags to the grocery store, recycle soda cans, use worm bins, and consider how to properly dispose of a computer monitor and other electronic waste accumulating in their closets.” I can see the difficulty of weaving computer monitor disposal into a storyline. But recycling? Cloth bags? That’s easy. Even a worm bin mishap could provide perfect fodder for a romantic comedy.
I understand there exists a segment of viewers who are turned off by the very mention of the environment. Their disdain is fed by the unsurprising criticism from the right about the “pernicious promotion” of green principles, and is manifest in online rants from angry TV viewers.
Those critics will always exist, but they’re a very small segment and if they aren’t complaining about green-influenced storylines and products, they’ll find another issue to attack. So if TV execs are willing to be “preachy” during the highly advertised Green Week, why not do it year round?
NBC’s Green Week has attracted upwards of $100 million in ad revenue for the network from companies who want to be associated with all things green. Subaru has been sponsoring Green Week since 2008, and for last year’s ads alone, they are rumored to have spent $10 million. Their investment paid off heavily: NBC’s numbers show that viewers who saw last year’s Subaru’s ads were a whopping 64% more likely to remember the ads if viewed on NBC during Green Week versus another channel. The associative link indicates that consistent messaging of Subaru’s green credentials with NBC’s explicit green programming had a profound impact on the minds of viewers.
Lately NBC has not exactly been hurting for ad revenue, but $100 million from two weeks worth of sustainability programming is no small drop in the bucket. Green Week is a financial win-win for both NBC and advertisers. So if NBC is serious about going green, and can profit from it, why not make sustainability a part of its regularly scheduled programming?
Ilana Lipsett is an MBA candidate at the Presidio Graduate School.