Have you noticed Al Gore making a cameo appearance on a television show recently? Were you surprised to see a character on a TV drama organizing a group bike ride out of the blue? Did you do a double take when the lead star casually threw her pop can into a recycling bin or took her own mug to the office coffee pot? Did all of that green behavior make you think that sustainability has now become mainstream? Or that television producers are trying to provide a positive example of green behavior?
Both are partially true. But the reality is that advertising revenue has dropped over the past few years and the networks are inserting instances of green behavior into program storylines in order to attract advertisers. It’s a step beyond “product placement” and is known as “behavior placement.” The characters are acting out eco-friendly behavior to create an environment that’s friendly to advertisers’ products – ie. designed to make you want to buy them. Of course, you won’t see anything controversial because advertisers don’t like to be associated with that – so recycling is okay but climate change isn’t. And green living probably won’t become an everyday part of your television fare anytime soon; it is only currently happening during two designated weeks – one in April and one in November.
Here at Natural Life Magazine, we don’t publish articles in order to attract advertisers. That includes refusing to accommodate advertisers that want us to sign a contract promising that their ad won’t be opposite anything they consider negative or controversial. In fact, we have very strict advertising and editorial policies (hence we don’t attract much advertising!). We value the few advertisers who fit our guidelines and who respect our integrity enough to advertise with us, but we’re mostly reader-supported. We have, in the past, published articles about media manipulation and about a related topic, greenwashing.
I do see this green “behavior placement” on television shows as a small step in the right direction if it helps to make sustainable practices more mainstream. However, the next time you turn on the TV or radio, pick up a newspaper or magazine, or visit a website, keep in mind what public relations company Burson-Marsteller says: “Perceptions are real. They color what we see…what we believe…how we behave. They can be managed…to motivate behavior…to create positive business results.”