CBS Sees 'EcoAd' Offer Gaining Traction

20 New Clients Join Effort to Parlay Ad Spend Into Environmental Aid

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Eight months after introducing a program that takes 10% of a marketer's ad buy for environmental-improvement efforts, CBS says its "EcoAd" has attracted around 20 new advertisers to the effort.

Marketers are "actively negotiating" with CBS for packages of ad time on the company's broadcast network, said Paul Polizzotto, president-founder of EcoMedia, which CBS acquired in May of 2010 after working with the company for about two years. "We've expanded the number of communities where we have sold local advertising."

Among the program's new clients are Boston Properties, Cirque du Soleil, Ford Dealers of Northern California, Solar City and Winthrop Hospital. Earlier advertisers included General Motors' Chevrolet, SunPower, O Organics, Boston Scientific, Pacific Coast Termite, Port of Los Angeles and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The interest signals marketers' awareness that they have to work harder to burrow into the consumer mindset. By hitching ad dollars to efforts that have the potential to aid causes or issues that bear personal relevance to customers, advertisers hope their products will be looked upon more favorably. Achieving such a feat, however, often requires more work than slapping a 30-second spot on the boob tube.

The effort could help broaden CBS' ad-revenue base. The majority of the company's ad revenue comes from its broadcast network, but helping to develop local environmental projects can help lure ad dollars to CBS operations that gain their traction at the local level.

Marketers who commit to this sort of promotion can purchase ad packages across CBS's various holdings -- national and local TV, radio, outdoor, online and more -- with the understanding that approximately 10% of the money committed to the sponsorship will be used to fund environmental-improvement efforts at the local level. To signal that a marketer's ads are part of the program, CBS will pair ads with a green-leaf logo for TV, interactive and outdoor advertising and with an audio identifier on radio.

EcoMedia looks for projects where the advertiser's contribution would comprise about 10% of the total project. A contribution of $100,000, for instance, would be added to a project that would, in total, be worth $1 million when all the money is put together. Advertisers can then tell consumers their advertising is part of a project to build new facilities for local residents, to maintain energy efficiency and even to create local jobs.

Since its launch, the EcoAd program has been criticized by four environmental advocacy groups. The organizations -- the Center for Environmental Health, Ecopreneurist, Friends of the Earth and the Rainforest Action Network -- complained in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission in April that the EcoAd effort could suggest to consumers that the advertisers involved are themselves environmentally conscious and work up to "green" standards.

Mr. Polizzotto said EcoAd has worked to make the parameters of the advertising more clear. "We've made voluntary adjustments to our logo, just to clarify that we are talking about the ads." Consumers are told the logo signifies the advertiser is helping to fund projects that help improve the environment in various communities. "We think it clarifies it perfectly, and we think that issue is behind us," he added.

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