Thursday, June 11, 2009

Deep Green - Day 2

Today is the first full day of our conference on the future of environmental marketing in Canada, and it's off to a great start.

Deep Green”, the 47th annual conference of the Trans-Canada Advertising Agency Network (T-CAAN), kicked off with a presentation by Frank Palmer, CEO of DDB Canada and Chair of T-CAAN, talking about his agency's own efforts to reduce its environmental footprint.

DDB Echology is an alliance between DDB Canada and Junxion Strategy, to provide sustainability consulting for clients. To prove that they "walk the walk", DDB took its own advice and created programs for measuring their carbon footprint, improving procurement, reducing waste and building on sustainable community investments.

"Echo" stands for:

Environmental Footprint
Community Building
Human Resource Practices
Opportunities for Influence

Some of the programs Frank mentioned were providing millions of dollars in free advertising through a competition for related pro-bono clients, as well as a "dumpster dive" where DDB ad executives went through municipal trash to separate out all recyclables.

Following that presentation, John Westbrook (our V.P. Client Services) and I took the podium to map the landscape of environmental marketing challenges and opportunities. John took the audience through a timeline of environmental activism from 1962 (the publication of "Silent Spring") to the present, highlighting significant events, disasters, legislation, and cultural touchstones that brought "ecology" from a fringe movement to the mainstream.

I followed up with a discussion about today's "LOHAS" (Lifestyles of Health & Sustainability) consumers. Almost a quarter of Canadians fit into this category, and the LOHAS market is estimated to be worth up tp $209 Billion.

The challenge, of course, is to identify what consumers are really looking for, and whether companies can provide it credibly. "Green" can mean anything from low-carbon footprint, to local, to organic, to less packaging, to the internal practices of the company or manufacturer. Defining a client's green USP has become increasingly critical in an era where consumers get their information from a multitude of instant media, and as I said "are always talking about you behind your back".

Another key message was one of trade-offs. In energy, for example, wind power is "clean" to the air but deadly to birds and annoying to neighbours. Hydro destroys ecosystems, culture and history. Nuclear doesn't emit carbon or smog, but produces permanent radioactive byproducts. No environmental decision is easy.

As well, consumers may say they want a carbon tax in surveys, but then vote against it at the polls. They'll buy low-energy appliances, but are happy to be less-sustainable when it comes to luxury goods. The list goes on and on.

It will be interesting to see what conclusions our 30 Canadian ad agency heads come to in discussing these issues this week.

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