The messages from the stage were largely tailored for marketing executives suddenly tasked with devising strategies for defending, shaping and otherwise managing their brands' environmental profiles.
But it wasn't a rah-rah session or a by-the-numbers class in product green-washing. Josh Bernstein, new Discovery Channel environmental advocate and three-year host of the hit History Channel adventure show "Digging for the Truth," charged the assembled advertisers with using their national communications powers to "help make people care."
Sacrifice and discipline
"There's going to have to be a lot of determination, commitment, sacrifice required -- no one's talking about this enough," he said. "There has to be sacrifice and discipline. Our current way of living has to be changed. It's about more than just driving a hybrid car and using compact fluorescent light bulbs. The American population needs to be prepared for a little bit of discomfort."
Taking another tack, crisis-management authority Mike Lawrence stressed the importance of understanding how to avoid the creation of unintended corporate risks through marketing.
First and foremost, he said, every marketing company "needs a structure to assess its current impact on the environment. That's in areas from supply chain, emissions, packaging, transportation and other forms of energy use."
Keynote speaker Kevin Wall, the producer of cause-oriented entertainment events such as Live 8 and the upcoming Live Earth music concerts, said the political status of environmentalism has changed massively in the last year and predicted that commerce and society would be dramatically reshaped over the next five years.
"Green is good for business. ... There's a lot that can happen," he told the audience. "What BP and Shell have done has been fantastic -- I think they've really moved the needle."