Letters, June 23, 2008

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Self-regulation part of green mix

Ad Age is to be commended for hosting its second annual Green Conference. From the outstanding speakers to the content, the conference was on target in illuminating the growing market power of green consumers. The one disappointment was the lack of recognition of the advertising industry's system of voluntary self-regulation, which works to ensure that all advertising -- including green marketing -- is truthful and accurate.

As the Federal Trade Commission's Associate Director for Enforcement reminded the audience, companies whose "walk" does not match their "talk" face severe consequences, including enforcement action for Unfair and Deceptive Acts under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

But for the advertising industry, false or misleading environmental marketing has even greater consequences. The credibility of green marketing and green brands rests on trust. If consumers perceive that green marketing is largely "greenwashing," the resulting loss of trust will threaten not only environmental claims but the credibility of valued brands and the advertising industry as a whole.

That is why the BBB's National Advertising Division is giving a priority to green-marketing cases. Since 1988, NAD has closed 30 cases involving green claims. In many of those cases, NAD has recommended discontinuance of claims or modifications to advertising to ensure the green claims being advertised to consumers are truthful and adequately supported.

Advertisers comply with NAD decisions more than 95% of the time. Industry self-regulation is one of the great success stories of the advertising industry. The important role that NAD plays in ensuring the truth and accuracy of environmental marketing should remind us all that this system deserves recognition and support.
C. Lee Peeler
President-CEO, National Advertising Review Council
Exec VP, National Advertising, Council of Better Business Bureaus
New York

What clients want isn't what they need

Cleve Langdon's article "What Breaks -- Or Makes -- A Presentation" rang true across our entire office. The author's assertions that although clients may ask for "revolution," they are only willing to engage in evolution, and that "most large companies have relatively narrow parameters of what's acceptable and what's not" are important insights for senior leaders across professional-services firms. As a strategy consulting firm focused on developing solutions that deliver tangible results for our clients, we are often on our own when emphasizing the importance of understanding culture and incorporating senior management's willingness to change as an input to strategy development. Many clients have been conditioned to ask what they "should do" or what the benchmarks are and end up disappointed with non-actionable recommendations that insufficiently factor an organization's appetite for change, unique priorities and cultural fit. The strategy-consulting industry is full of reports on shelves that deliver exactly what clients asked for, and not what they needed.
Bill Theofilou
Managing partner

Don't overlook newspaper gains

Re: "Magazines Find Surprise Stash of New Readers." The story on the Mediaedge magazine audience analysis was encouraging from the perspective of anyone in the publishing world. The story notes that overall magazine audiences have climbed 4.4% over the past year, per the spring 2008 MRI release. That is good news. But it would have been helpful to include newspaper readership data to offer a complete print outlook.

According to MRI, adults reading any daily newspaper increased by 1.3% from 2007 to 2008, from 94.8 to 96.0 million. In the top 100 DMA's, the increase is 2.5 %.

It is second nature these days for agency buyers to tell sellers not to place media formats into silos. In that context, daily, weekly and monthly print titles ought to be analyzed and presented across a complete spectrum.
Paul C. Atkinson
Senior Vice President
Newspaper National Network
New York


  • RE: "Direct Marketing Is Not So Recession-Proof After All." Prior to the first quarter of 2008, the Direct Marketing Association's Quarterly Business Review had positive index results for 18 quarters, not 18 months.

  • RE: "Clorox Eco-Friendly Line Finds Green Foes." The brand manager for Clorox Green Works is Matt Kohler.
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