July 30, 2012
Study finds advertisers use more 'green' ads when economy is better
The research, published in the journal Public Understanding of Science, found a "significant" positive correlation between growth in gross domestic product (GDP) and the number of advertisements referring to environmental concerns. The results seem to confirm earlier research indicating that when the economy is good, consumers are more likely to prioritize the environment in their decisions.
"Because advertisers do a lot of research into public attitudes before they create and place ads, we took advertising as a reliable proxy for environmental concern,” said study lead-author Lee Ahern, assistant professor of advertising and public relations at Penn State University, in a statement. "We found that changes in GDP do indeed predict the level of 'green' advertising."
"This perspective argues that environmental concern will be greater in stronger economies and better economic times. By extension, consumers will be more attuned and receptive to green appeals when the economy is improving, and marketers will employ more green advertising."
The study found green messaging changes over time. In the late 1980s the late 1990s, species and habitat conservation were the focus. Global warming ads became more prominent toward the end of the 1990s.
National Geographic Magazine carries 692 pages of 'green' ads during the study period. Ads were placed by entities ranging from non-profit organizations, to industry groups, to individual companies.