It's not easy advertising green

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Building your ad around a pine cone doesn't mean you're green. We have warily watched b-to-b advertisers embrace environmentally friendly themes in recent years and have been struck by how gratuitous so much of the green imagery and so many of the green claims have been. ¶ Natural images tend to give readers the warm fuzzies; but a smart, responsible advertiser must connect them to one of its business practices or even to its entire corporate mission. A case in point is Sepaton, which specializes in enterprise data protection. It brings us to the floor of a redwood forest where rays of the sun sparkle through a canopy of greenery. Inset against the white copy field is a pine cone. Perhaps Sepaton, which has a touch of green in its logo, is an environmental champion, but you would never know it from the headline and copy. States the headline: “Scale. Grow your enterprise without outgrowing your storage.” The copy explains that Sepaton helps the world's largest enterprises reduce risk and improve operational efficiency of their data centers. The call to action invites readers to learn how Sepaton can help customers scale to meet their enterprise data needs. Curiously, the invitation makes no mention of how Sepaton may be helping reduce its or its customers' carbon footprint. We can only conclude that this is an exploitive form of borrowed interest. A crescent of greenery in the heart of a desert accents an ad for GE in which the industrial conglomerate touts its water purification technology that lets people in developing nations reuse water for irrigation, drinking and industry. “It's all part of our blueprint for a better world,” states the text in the attractive ad that includes the image of two men leading a small herd of camels along the edge of the irrigated land. While GE aims to project a green halo over itself with the ad, the ad needs to do a better job of explaining the technology. There's more room against the desert backdrop for some explanatory text. Or GE could provide the proof points on the Web, and perhaps that can be found at the Web site referenced in the bottom right-hand corner. But without an invitation to learn more about the technology, readers have little incentive to visit the site and the ad can be seen as nothing more than an exercise in borrowed interest. As seen from a bird's-eye view, patches of green and yellow appear to radiate from a small community. The image is arresting. The advertiser is Veolia, which describes itself as a leader in energy and facility management solutions. The copy states that Veolia “optimizes energy and reduces global carbon dioxide emissions by more than 5 million tons per year through the simultaneous production of heat and electricity. Preserving the environment is our universal challenge.” Similar to the GE ad, the Veolia ad could afford to do a more convincing job of explaining its green initiatives. Expanded copy or directing readers to the Web for the full story would make sense, but Veolia misses that opportunity. The company's URL appears in the bottom left of the ad, but the copy makes no effort to move readers in that direction. Rows of workstations are set up in a sylvan setting in an ad for IBM Power 550 servers. “The Power 550 Express gives you 16% more processing power and uses 91% less energy and 98% less space compared to the 64-core HP 9000 Superdome,” says the copy That's all great stuff for the customer, but how does that translate into a benefit for the environment that seems to be of primary concern in this ad, at least to the art director. By failing to more firmly draw the connection, the ad seems like a gratuitous use of the green card. M
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