NBC Universal breaks ground in Green Week

NEW YORK: NBC Universal turned inward last week for one of the most comprehensive green branding campaigns ever by a media company.

NBC Universal breaks ground in Green Week

NEW YORK: NBC Universal turned inward last week for one of the most comprehensive green branding campaigns ever by a media company.

GE-owned NBCU unleashed a comprehensive week-long blitz of green-themed programming and events, covering all of its myriad properties, including TV and cable networks, sports and talk shows, mobile networks, Web sites, a movie studio, and theme parks.

The idea for the "Green is Universal" campaign flowed out of parent company GE's ongoing "Ecomagination" campaign, one of the more prominent green pushes in corporate America.

"Our opportunity as [NBCU] was to not try to duplicate Ecomagination, but to enhance it," said Lauren Zalaznick, president of Bravo Media and chief coordinator of last week's green campaign, "only, insofar as being a media company, [we] can drive it into new and more content-driven, more consumer messaging - through [an] entertainment and information route."

Six months ago, the company formed a "green council" of a dozen representatives from all of its platforms, headed by Zalaznick. That council came up with a "vision statement" and a template for the week's activities. Those were passed on to the individual NBCU properties, which each developed its own analog and digital programming, and marketing and PR tactics for their pieces of the Green is Universal pie.

The scope of the campaign was vast, encompassing 150 hours of programming and 38 brands. Primetime NBC telecasts each incorporated an environmental storyline; Today sent crews around the world to report on environmental issues; talk shows used "green" logo screens; affiliates ran green-themed stories and held public environmental events; and the Sci-Fi network ran a marathon of natural disaster shows.

Universal Studios added green PSAs to its movie previews; Universal theme parks touted their green business practices and held environmental fairs. Web sites and mobile networks for all media properties ran simultaneous green campaigns, which included reposted broadcast content, green widgets, and the tree-planting charity ivillageforest.com.

GreenisUniversal.com, which is the main site, will remain up indefinitely and will be updated with new content.

NBCU chose not to hire an outside agency, instead putting its own internal promotional power to work. NBCU set broad guidelines, such as a time for all logos to "go green," packaging elements for programming promos, a vetted list of green "tips" to be incorporated into storylines, and ads to drive traffic to the Web site. From there, individual properties worked out their own promotional strategies, with in-house PR staff handling media relations elements.

"We set the template, and they filled it in as appropriate for their brand," said Zalaznick. "This is a very brand-centric company."

The company did work with GreenOrder, an environmental consulting firm that helped to ensure that the campaign's environmental elements were sound. GreenOrder has also worked with GE on Ecomagination.

Zalaznick said that the company plans to make green week an annual event, and create ongoing green programming and branding events. The overarching goal, she said, is to make NBCU "the leading green media company."

The company is seeking a competitive advantage by adding a higher green sheen to its brand.

"[The respective brands] have to make sure their green programming is as good, if not better-rated, [than] any other episode," Zalaznick said. "Along with great ratings comes advertising dollars. What we'd like to see is an ability to reach a broader base of advertisers who [want] to partner with us to get their environmental sustainability message out to consumers."

Risks for the media giant were many - public apathy; having critics point out legacy environmental faults; actions from climate-change skeptics; and a backlash during fall sweeps week that could threaten ratings - and it remains too early to tell whether the audacious plan will pay off.

The company surveyed its 16,000 employees about their environmental attitudes prior to the campaign, and will repeat the survey in a year to see if the education push has paid off.

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