Seeing (Green) Isn’t Believing

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For many marketers, green is the new black as companies try to cash in on consumers’ desire to be green, shop green and live green. But research from several firms suggests that while consumers may be paying attention to green ads, many are skeptical about some advertisers’ claims.

As previously reported, National Cable Communications recently launched ever°GREEN, a pro-social, eco-friendly initiative that can be used by national spot, regional and local advertisers wanting to push their “green” initiatives, as well as their products and services. Time Warner Cable has also launched its own green initiative, allowing advertisers to associate their company and green campaign with environmental tips already created by the operator.

According to a Burst Media online survey conducted in April, more than 70% of the 6,000 consumers surveyed recalled occasionally seeing green ads, but more than 20% said they never believe the environmental claims those ads are touting. Two-thirds said they only believe the claims “sometimes.”

Overall, news stories (43.7%) are the leading information source to learn about green initiatives and products. This is followed by word of mouth and family and friends (35.2%), personal research (33.9%), advertisements (26.7%), community initiatives (18.4%) and organized groups (12.2%).

While advertising isn’t the first place consumers go when they want to learn about green products and services, they do tend to remember the ads even if they don’t always believe the claims.

The study found that women 35 years and older are significantly more likely than women 18-34 years to recall green advertising. Additionally, frequent recall of green advertising increases as reported household income increases; going from 39.4% recall with respondents reporting HHI less than $35,000, to 53.7% among respondents reporting HHI or $100,000 or more.

Yet recall doesn’t automatically translate into belief. The Burst Media survey found that 22.7% of respondents said they seldom or never believe an advertiser’s green claims. Two thirds (65.3%) said they sometimes believe the statements made in ads touting green initiatives or products. Another 12.1% said they always believe the green ads they see.

Green ads are popping up all over the place, and it’s hard to tell whether they will slow down now that this year’s Earth Day has passed. And with all eyes on the upcoming election, even presidential candidates are joining the fray.

Of the estimated $48 million Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has spent on TV ads this year, almost 16% was spent on ads addressing energy issues, according to TNS Media Intelligence’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. Similarly, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) designated approximately 18% of her ad spending, or $5.1 million, to energy ads so far this year.

Along similar lines, $55 million was spent by groups representing the coal, natural gas, oil and alternative fuel industries, as well as environmental protection agencies so far this year. These organizations spent their ad dollars nationally to outline to the American public that their form of energy was clean, affordable and could lead to independence from foreign oil.

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