From celebrity tips to offering trips and prizes, cablers are taking a variety of approaches in public service announcements focused on environmental and conservation issues. Here are several examples of how programmers have been spreading the green word.
E!: 'Play a Part'
Working with the Environmental Media Association, E! takes a straightforward approach to get the message out, recruiting star power to encourage responsible habits.
In 2006, the network featured celebrities such as Daryl Hannah and Jeffrey Tambor providing tips (for example, bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store).
Recent spots have featured Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana DePandi standing on a set and dishing simple ideas. With the tagline “You don't have to be a celebrity to play a part,” the spots offer tips such as looking for products made or packaged with recyclable content. Viewers are guided to the EMA's Web site for more information.
“The idea is that small changes can make a big difference,” said executive vice president of marketing and communications Suzanne Kolb. But Kolb knows that the next round will have to find a way to provide more sophisticated ideas. “I sometimes think if people hear one more time about changing their light bulbs, they'll go back and put in all their incandescent bulbs,” she laughed.
HGTV: 'Change The World, Start At Home' And 'Generation Green'
Done in partnership with the National Resources Defense Council, the “Change The World, Start at Home” campaign uses public service announcements featuring personable HGTV host Carter Oosterhouse (Red, Hot and Green) standing in a lush green environment as he provides basic ideas — compact fluorescent bulbs, portable timers to regulate heat or air conditioning, unplugging electronics when they're not in use — and easy catchphrases, such as “minimize waste and maximize energy.”
Annette Brun, vice president of marketing, said the network had long partnered with the nonprofit organizations National Trust for Historic Preservation and Rebuilding Together, and while they are still involved, it was “time to re-think and broaden the campaign.”
For its “Generation Green” campaign, HGTV focuses on vignettes featuring home planner Jack Thomasson and his daughter, who asks pointed questions about the environment and issues such as water conservation. Each vignette is sponsored by Home Depot.
Toon Disney/Jetix: 'EnvirOlympics'
While the Summer Olympics don't arrive for several months, Toon Disney programming block Jetix has already launched its own “EnvirOlympics,” a PSA series that hopes to inspire kids with its messages and with a shot at winning a trip to the X Games and other prizes if they win online environmentally themed athletic games and answer “green” questions.
“What we wanted to do was take the adventure of the green movement and bring it to the audience in a fun and entertaining way,” said David Levine, vice president of worldwide programming strategy for Disney Channel and Jetix. “Once our team hit on the idea, it all came together pretty quickly.”
The animated PSAs feature characters from Disney cartoons such as Kim Possible, Jake Long and Lilo and Stitch competing in imaginary events such as “The 100 Meter Trash,” the “Tree Planting Shot Put,” “Recycling Cycling,” “Low-Watt Light Bulb Changing High Jump” and the “Water Conservation High Dive.”
National Geographic Channel: 'Preserve Our Planet'
In the National Geographic Channel's public service announcement, a camera shows people with numbers like 57,846 or 75,465 floating above their heads that represent their weight in carbon dioxide. The spot explains that when we waste electricity, fuel or water those numbers go up, but that recycling and conservation can reverse that.
But the network decided it wanted to involve the audience directly, said Chris Albert, executive director of communications. To that end, it is producing vignettes featuring on-screen talent such as Brady Barr and Mike Heithaus and National Geographic explorers Sven Linblad and Bob Ballard expounding on the theme of “What You Do Counts.”
NGC also launched a contest looking for short films and PSAs on that theme at colleges across the country. One PSA highlight was “Battle of the Bulbs,” a clever animated tale about a dragon-like incandescent bulb that “greedily consumes energy.”
Comedy Central: 'Address the Mess'
Comedy Central put its own spin on environmental PSAs, relying on the irreverent humor of Daniel Tosh. “Daniel is cutting edge and hugely popular with college kids,” said Kelleigh Dulany, senior vice president of public relations. The network wanted to tie most of the spots to their cause campaign, which encourages viewers to recycle e-waste.
In one, called “E-mulch,” Tosh is outside a suburban home, raking the lawn and rhapsodizing about how the leaves fall to the soil and “nurture new life,” which is part of “nature's perfect balance.”
But instead of leaves falling, it is e-waste — old TVs, computers, printers — plummeting from trees, with alarming frequency.
Current TV: '60 Seconds To Save The Earth'
Current TV's contest called upon viewers to create “ecospot” PSAs on the climate crisis. Movie stars George Clooney, Orlando Bloom and Cameron Diaz were on a panel that selected finalists, and viewers voted for the winner online, with the grand prize being a Toyota hybrid.
“The overall quality was outstanding,” said programming president David Newman. “People were so creative.”
The winner was a quirky animated spot called “The Sky Is Falling” by a 28-year-old named Dave Schlafman.
Set in a bleak and polluted city, the spot imagines elephants raining down from the sky, as a graphic informs viewers that in one year America released 6.1 billion tons — the equivalent of 1.2 billion elephants — of carbon dioxide into the air.
A final plea reads, “It's time to stop ignoring the 1.2 billion elephants in the room.”
Sundance Channel: Eco-Tips
Sundance employs a mix of actors with a lively blend of live-action and constantly flowing animation to deliver simple and straightforward advice: “Be Greener.”
In one spot, John Hensley urges people to pay their bills online.
In another, Jamie-Lynn Sigler tells them why organic produce is not only better for them but for animals and for the environment.
The latter spot directs viewers to Sundance's “The Green” Web site for help finding local organic grocery stores.
Sundance also sends out screeners of its PSAs and other DVDs in recyclable cardboard sleeves as opposed to plastic holders.