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Solar-Powered Advertising?

3p is proud to partner with the Presidio Graduate School’s Managerial Marketing course on a blogging series about “sustainable marketing.” This post is part of that series. To follow along, please click here.

By Emily Alt

The marketers of today are focusing much of their time and effort on new-age marketing, especially social media. These new age methods are inherently sustainable, as they do not require any physical products, like billboards, print ads, direct mailings or even stickers, and therefore do not produce greenhouse gas emissions. However, physical marketing will not be going away anytime soon, as they reach a different segment than social media. Outdoor advertising can reach specific people based on their geographic location and daily habits, such as commuters. To be most effective, outdoor advertising must reach people both day and night; therefore, installations need some sort of attached lighting fixture. These lights generally run 12 to 24 hours per day (some never shut off), and thus have high operating costs. For this reason, owners of outdoor advertising installations retrofit their products to be operationally efficient.  Is there a way to make outdoor advertising more sustainable?

The technology to power lights with solar panels exists, but most companies are not taking full advantage of it. There are streetlights, parking permit devices, and bus stops powered completely by solar panels, showing that the technology is feasible, but the main users are not private firms but rather government agencies. Business owners who use outdoor advertising to attract customers have high operating costs that could be mitigated with the installation of solar panels. There are many benefits to solar-powered advertising: reduced up front costs thanks to ubiquitous government subsidies, decreased operational costs, and opportunities for rebranding the company as green. Today’s consumers are becoming more and more concerned with sustainable practices and companies could take advantage of this mentality.

Outdoor advertising is a unique marketing opportunity that will not be going away anytime soon, so there are myriad chances for companies to reduce operating costs and brand itself as green by attaching solar panels to their advertisements. As solar power becomes increasingly popular, its cost per kilowatt-hour continues to decrease, and consumers become more concerned with businesses’ sustainable practices, solar-powered advertisements will become a competitive differentiator and possibly become an industry standard.

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