Green Product Placement Is Making Sustainability Cool & Normal

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Cultivating the green consumer is an art. In almost every opinion poll, consumers say that they are very concerned about climate change. They worry about sea level rise, dismal air to breathe, species decline, longer droughts framed by floods, and previously unknown diseases. But when it comes to actually buying green goods, well-meaning consumer words and deeds often part ways. Higher costs, less familiarity, and reduced convenience can prevent consumers from buying green. That reluctance is changing, albeit slowly, with green product placement in films and TV shows.

green product placement
Companies with green product lines are now placing them within films and TV shows. Courtesy of Green Product Placement

Behind the Scenes of Product Placement

Many film and television studios are committed to reducing the environmental impact from filmmaking activities. In the US, most of the major film studios have sustainability departments that coordinate with sustainability managers on some, most, or all of their productions. These managers work with their various departments to cut down on landfill waste and carbon emissions.

The Producers’ Guild of America has a quite extensive online guide and services directory as part of its PGA Green Guide Initiative. The UK has its own guide which includes a carbon calculator and a services directory, titled “We Are Albert.” The UK also passed an official government expectation for sustainable media with its BS 8909 Standard for Sustainable Production.

The set where a film or TV show is being produced is also a site where going green is taking on life. The set decorator is responsible for converting the blank canvas of a film or TV set into a space that feels authentic, lived-in, and believable. This artist deals in the details — the small touches that reveal to the audience something about the person or people who occupy the life within films and television shows. Items selected by the set decorator enhance the visual realism of the scene and, increasingly, that sense of home and reassurance is found with green product placements.

Product placement is one of the important and new differentiation strategies for products and brands as companies realize that they have a need to break through advertising clutter in an era of ubiquitous social media and pop culture. The quest to have more effective branding can bring green products to the small and large screen.

What is Product Placement, & How Does It Work?

Product placement is the process by which consumer goods are integrated into a selected film or television production for clear product visibility. Its purpose is to assist with brand marketing or to promote a product. In either case, the product is visible during the scene but not the scene’s central focus. The product fits the setting and context and is notable in that the brand being mentioned or shown is integrated into the media content, in contrast to a traditional interstitial commercial.

Product placement ranks just below personal recommendation and above both email marketing and social media ads in influencing consumers’ buying decisions. Product placement in the US is regulated by both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It’s not considered harmful because it typically does not make any false claims about the product in question. Indeed, the integration of brands or products within entertainment creates content interconnections of the placement as well as a web of intertextual links.

Audiences tend to relate to brands due to familiarity, a feel-good judgment of placement fit, increasingly appealing attitudes toward placements, and their degree of association to the film or TV show. Contextualizing green product placement as a message within a system of sociocultural, marketing communications, and textual cross-references messages generates positive audience outcomes, as audiences come to feel more in tune with brands and products they recognize from a placement.

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Green Product Placement

Product placement provides an alternative way for brands to reach consumers and does so in a more subtle way than through traditional advertising. Not only does this platform increase brand awareness for these types of companies; it will help influence the buying public toward more sustainable consumer choices.

“The way product placement works on unconscious brand recognition and decision making is an effective tool that has been employed by the highest performing conventional multinational brands for decades,” said Beth Bell, founder, Green Product Placement.

After spending many years in the set dressing and decorating departments on feature films, Bell was familiar with the use of product placement to dress and prop features. But what would it be like to promote businesses with a green, social enterprising, and/or local entrepreneurial agenda? Fast forward to 2019. Their products are selected to not only fit into the ethos of the sponsor company but also to be more aesthetically pleasing, look better on camera, and, therefore, be more desirable for set decorators and prop people to use in their projects.

Bell offered an exclusive comment for CleanTechnica about the role of green product placement in the sustainability action movement.

“The positive effect of brand and behavioral recall dovetails with how the UNEP says we jump sustainable behaviors with consumers. By framing these products and behaviors in content, being used by actors, and shown as part of everyday occurrences, this helps to shape positive changes in the way consumers behave. By showing characters carrying their own water bottles and shopping bags, composting, and with organic or non-diary products in their fridge, for example, you frame these products and actions as ‘normal.’ We like to say that we ‘make green normal’ through product placement. We call it ‘positive placement.'”

Final Thoughts

Companies invest significant financial and human resources in green product development and marketing to strengthen their reputation among consumers and increase sales. Involvement with the environment positively influences green advertising effectiveness and can moderate advertising effects. It is also a communication channel for moving public opinion to a more pro-environment stance.

Consumer involvement describes how relevant and important a consumer feels a product, brand, or issue is to himself/herself. In a high involvement context, advertising through green product placement directly modifies an individual’s beliefs, attitude, and behavior. No longer are green companies focusing their advertising on an expectation of high involvement with the environment, Instead, green product placement is inviting in a whole new group of consumers who respond to non-economic green purchase influencers such as are found on film and TV screens.

Photos courtesy of Green Product Placement

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack:

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