CZECHS TOUT GREEN PRODUCTS WITH NEW SEAL

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PRAGUE-Marketers proving they make an "environmentally friendly" product will be allowed to use a new seal of approval from the Czech government.

And for the privilege they can expect to pay between 0.1% and 0.2% of the total value of a year's worth of production.

To support the seal, the Czech government will break a nationwide newspaper and TV ad campaign this month, run by the Czech Ministry of the Environment and funded by companies receiving the seal.

The Czech Republic isn't the only Eastern European country developing environmental labeling According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, other Central and Eastern European countries exploring similar programs include Croatia and Poland.

The Czech program's success may hinge on how much ad support it gets from both the ministry and companies using the seal.

Josef Havelka, head of the Czech Association of Advertising Agencies and managing director of the Leo Burnett office here, said the labeling program will work only with intensive advertising, consumer promotion and public relations. A similar 10-year-old program in Germany was nearly scrapped because it didn't get enough ad support, he said. A European Union eco-labeling program has also been sluggish.

So far only two specialized products-an insulation made from recycled newspapers and a low-toxicity lubricating oil-have met the stringent requirements to carry the "E" label with the green leaf in promotional materials.

Only six categories currently are available: Insulating materials made with recycled paper; water-soluble paints; phosphate-free detergents; lubricating oils and two different categories of heating systems. But government officials are hoping to attract makers of mainstream consumer products in up to 50 designated product categories.

Lubom¡r Nondek, chief of the department for environmental strategies in the Ministry, said he would like to have the label on typical consumer products and in places like Kmart.

Advertisers aren't sure of the program. Procter & Gamble, for example, has not made any decisions, according to Ivana BraÊanov , P&G spokeswoman for the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

CIUR a.s., producer of an insulating material, is the first recipient of the eco-label.

CIUR was authorized to proceed with the program in June, after two years of pushing the Czech government to adopt it. During that time, the ministry researched more than 20 similar programs worldwide. The company this month will start a business-to-business TV ad campaign to promote its services to construction firms in the Czech Republic and Western Europe.

CIUR plans TV commercials showing a man in his warm, insulated house with a woman snuggling next to him while a hapless neighbor sits alone in his cold, uninsulated home. The voice-over explains the eco-label and environmental benefits of the product. State-run Czech TV created and filmed the commercial for CIUR, which has no ad agency.

The program's success, depends on product prices, said Mr. Havelka. "The environmental conscience here is increasing," he said. "But if the price is higher, that kind of ecological distinction won't be too important."

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