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Upfronts 2009: NBCU Touts Green Gameplan

Even in a recession, going green will keep bringing in the green. That was the message at NBC Universal’s “Green is Universal” upfront in New York Monday.

The company outlined its green initiatives, previewed its new marketing campaign and presented research to bolster its claims that advertisers that buy into its “green” packages are making a wise investment.

The tagline for the 2009 campaign will be “Green Lives Here,” a line that will be adapted to the individual brands and advertisers that come on board. For example, a promo during The Tonight Show could be “Green Laughs Here,” while a spot for a sponsor such as Wal-Mart could use the line “Green Shops Here.”

The research was ordered to determine how consumers perceive “green” programming, the “green” movement at large as well as how advertisers and television networks are perceived in that field. Among the findings was that nearly 75% of consumers believe that going “green” is good for the economy. In addition, consumers were willing to pay a premium for “green” products, and if quality and price were equal, they would be far more likely to purchase an item from a company that sponsored GIU efforts.

The research findings also suggested that NBC Universal’s attempt to brand itself as the “green” media conglom were effective. 82% of respondents agreed that the campaign “Shows NBCU’s commitment to the environment” and when asked to name which network was the most “green,” 30% named NBC, compared to 5% for fox and 4% for ABC and CBS.

The point of the research was to make the case that even in a recession, green sells. Conservation is suddenly chic, and so companies looking to brand themselves around “green” efforts have a better chance of picking up a piece of the dwindling consumer spending pie.

The GIU campaign may help boost NBCU’s image, but it is also very much a moneymaking venture. Lauren Zalaznick, who heads up the effort, says the company reduced its emissions by 3% in the last year, resulting in a savings of $2 million. In addition, the network sells custom sponsorship opportunities, positioning its advertisers as thought leaders in the “green” arena.

Since 2007 the network has presented green themed PSAs during its programming, and has incorporated green themes into its shows (such as last year’s appearance by “Greenzo” during an episode of 30 Rock). It has also tried to make the production of its shows as green as possible, including its live events coverage. Zalaznick, who heads up the GIU effort, recalled seeing staffers cruising on Segways at this year’s Super Bowl, calling it “very Arrested Development.” (Gob, a character on the now defunct Fox series, would travel around town on the show via Segway.)

NBC Universal has Also purchased a bulk order of high quality carbon offset credits from AES, a company specializing in the emissions trading scheme. Those credits will be “purchased” by individual NBC and Universal productions as needed.

The 2009 “Green is Universal” campaign will kick off with the Miss USA pageant on NBC April 19, and will run on all the NBC U properties through April 26.