On the fourth Wednesday of the month, Marketing: Green focuses on green media strategies within specific traditional media. (October: outdoor; November: print; December: TV). Creative, strategic, operational and other media pros are invited to brainstorm and collaborate, with the goal of indelibly cementing "green" into media of all types: Ideas ranging from "so-crazy-it-just-might-work" to "as long as no one gets hurt." Due to an impending second child, this dad-to-be postponed November's "Green: Print" by one week! Thanks to all readers for your patience, support and involvement.
The original intention of this column was to discuss green creative strategy within traditional advertising media. Having interviewed professionals in the field, the "greenness" of the media themselves emerged as a recurring theme. Print advertising's green credibility is suspect. Common sense says that ink spread across a dead tree, hauled via plane and truck to an individual doorstep is not the most energy-efficient way of disseminating information.
The pulp and paper industry as a whole is the fourth-largest contributor of toxic releases to air, according to the U.S. EPA Toxic Release Inventory Database. Even if it's not the greatest contributor to air pollution, (e.g., recent studies are pointing to the IT industry's carbon footprint as equal to the airline industry's) there is still room for much improvement.
Since the print business is highly dependent on ad revenues (with some publications moving to a 100% ad-driven model), the stakeholders who hold much of the power are the advertisers. The recent advertising recession made this reality brutally clear to magazines and newspapers. There is no better time than the present to begin leveraging ad budget buying power to enforce a sustainable agenda -- something we all presumably want anyways.
Is it realistic though to expect advertisers to develop green standards in terms of their media buy-ins?
According to Frank Locatore, director of the Better Paper Project, there are an increasingly diverse number of publications in the magazine industry that live by the stringent green standards set out by Green America.
"Adoption of cleaner standards has reached beyond just the 'usual suspects' like Outside and Explore Magazine, and hit the mainstream magazines like Motorcycle Classics, Shape Magazine, and Fast Company," according to Locatore.
This is great news for green marketers and media buyers, because a broader choice of greener publications also means increased competitive pressure for non-green publications.
Greening is not a simple task for publishers however. Many factors have to be taken into account other than just paper, in order to forge genuinely green infrastructure.
"A publisher must consider numerous factors to arrive at a comprehensive green strategy. Ink and paper's derivation, components, miles traveled from source, and biodegradability; post-read recycling through municipal partnerships; use of staples and extraneous materials (for bundling, etc.)," says Dara Mottahed, sales manager of Metro News Ottawa, the world's largest international newspaper.
The book industry is leading the charge in terms of green industry standardization. A main goal of the Book Industry Environmental Council (BIEC) is to establish a label to identify publishers that are leading the way in reducing environmental impacts.
A coalition of advertisers, publishers and environmental activists could follow the BIEC's lead in creating a green advertising standards act, complete with "20% by 2020" greenhouse reduction goals, implementation strategies for publishers, and possibly even blacklists for non-participants. Research indicates that such efforts would not be an exercise in futility, as we get closer to a tipping point in terms of major industry partnerships and investments in greener infrastructure.
I invite readers, particularly from the print world, to comment regarding challenges and initiatives to which they may belong. Also, it is hoped this can be a forum for leaders to network with the goal of creating and enforcing greener standards within print.
December's Green: TV will explore similar challenges within the world's most pervasive advertising medium.