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Promax Panel Sounds Off on Green Movement

New York -- Addressing the recent upswing in green programming at the 2007 Promax/BDA Conference here this week, Heffernan Marketing president Lee Heffernan noted the irony that prior to the launch of healthy-living network Lime, her team was actually hesitant to use the word green for fear of putting off advertisers.

A mere 18 months later, according to research by Heffernan -- who has also worked for Turner Broadcasting System, Lifetime Television and WE tv -- one of the largest emerging consumer groups is environmentally oriented.

“There are the ‘dark green’ consumers, which represent about 12% of the U.S. population,” she said. “They would be considered hard-core environmentalists and very passionate about their beliefs and lifestyle. Then there are what we call the ‘light greens,’ which represent 68% of the U.S. population currently. The light greens are the biggest emerging consumer base, and eco-marketing is a huge consumer touch-point opportunity to reach them.”

Heffernan was part of Promax panel discussion Shades of Green, which also featured Sarah Barnett, senior vice president of on-air, branding and creative at Sundance Channel; Marci Klugman, director of consumer marketing at Discovery Channel; and Andrew Shapiro, president of GreenOrder, which works to drive corporate profitability through environmental sustainable strategies.

One thing all panelists appeared to agree on was that green programming is here to stay.

Barnett -- who has worked extensively on Sundance’s eco-friendly lifestyle channel, The Green -- said the programming trend was not a fad, but more indicative of people prioritizing in their lifestyles.

“Frankly, I think ‘green-washing’ will disappear as a term over time because consumers won’t accept companies that are trying to get away with it, critics and competition will start pointing it out and regulators will start scrutinizing,” said Shapiro, addressing the phenomenon of companies marketing themselves as “green” without actually changing core business practices.

GreenOrder recently worked with General Electric on its “Ecomagination” commitment to sustainable technologies.

“Just as in 1997 you needed a digital business plan, today you need a green business plan,” Shapiro added.

Klugman -- who worked on marketing Planet Earth, cable’s highest-rated nature series -- added that prior to Bank of America’s ad spots touting affiliation with the documentary series, a study showed that 30% of people polled thought Bank of America was not environmentally conscious. That number dropped to 20% after two spots surrounding Planet Earth aired a total of about 75 times.

The panel discussion capped off the second day of the 2007 Promax/BDA Conference, dubbed Intersections: Where Audiences Connect.

Kenynoting the event earlier in the day was former President Bill Clinton, who discussed how the right branding could affect change on everything from environmental issues, education, poverty and healthcare, while inaccurate branding could leave the general population ignorant of facts that were necessary for progress.