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Advertising

Making Advertising Eco-Friendly with Green the Bid

The advertising industry is uniquely positioned to make a real difference towards our global sustainability goals. This team of advertisers has come together to spread the word, and encourage real change amongst their colleagues and collaborators.

January 21, 2021

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Our guests from Green the Bid have a long history in the advertising industry, and are using that expertise to encourage their colleagues to think green when it comes to creating new advertising content. 

The following interview is an excerpt from our video series, Advertising - In Conversation. To watch the full interview and see more video content, click here. Or you can listen to the Shift In Conversation podcast here.

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Jessie Nagel - Founder - Green the Bid
Julian Katz - Founder - Green the Bid
Michael Kaliski - Founder - Green the Bid 
Grace Amodeo - Program Manager - Shift 

Grace:
Before we jump into Green the Bid, can each of you introduce yourselves and tell us about the work you do outside of this initiative? 

Jessie:
I'm Jessie Nagel and I have a communications agency that I co-founded called Hype. We do PR communication and social media marketing, primarily for creative content providers behind the scenes in entertainment and advertising.

Julian:
I'm Julian Katz, I spent 23 years as an agency producer. And most recently have been working on contract at Facebook, helping to oversee all of our external agency production work including all of our DNI, sustainability, and other social impact programs.

Michael:
I'm Michael Kaliski, founder of Good Planet Innovation. We're a sustainable production consultancy, originally from the film and television industry. And Good Planet also greens films, TV shows, and commercials.

Grace:
Michael, can you give us a little bit of context around the “green” initiative in film, television, and advertising? Where is this movement coming from, and where are we now?

Michael:
When I was in the film and television world, it was early days for this concept. When I first started in the nineties, nobody wanted to hear this conversation. They actually looked at me like I was a little bit crazy to even bring it up. In the 2000’s I had a production company geared toward humanitarian and environmental issues, but realized that we were generally preaching to the choir. So I started Good Planet, originally to integrate sustainable and ethical behavior on screen. And right after we launched we started to also look at the production aspect, and making productions zero waste and net carbon neutral. When we first started 10 years ago, it was really client driven. So the brand would mandate it and the mandate would roll down through the agency and then to the production company. We would execute the plan, but it was just a one-off – it was the exception, not the rule. A couple of years ago we started a partnership program which partnered with production companies, agencies, and brands to green their entire slate of productions. That was a great step in the right direction, but we don’t have time to do it one company at a time. Green the Bid was a natural evolution where we are engaging the entire industry, all the stakeholders from brands to agencies, production companies, post houses, and vendors to communicate together and share resources to make this a global movement. 

That was a great step in the right direction, but we don’t have time to do it one company at a time. Green the Bid was a natural evolution where we are engaging the entire industry.

Grace:
How would you describe Green the Bid to someone who hasn’t heard of it before?

Jessie:
When we started talking with people many years ago about this, we heard that people were having difficulty being able to enact as many of the things that they wanted to do. So we said, how can we bring everybody together so that they can take their part of the responsibility and sort of link arms. I really agree that as a community we can try to affect change by identifying who is really responsible for what, and then learn from each other. We started to really talk about this in earnest well over a year ago, and we were ready to launch in March, but then the pandemic hit. Obviously it changed things for everybody because we were on pause, but it also provided us with an opportunity to dig a little deeper and really refine the way we want to develop this. We recognized in that moment a time where people maybe felt isolated, and it was time for us to really try to forge a community. And so that’s what we set out to do with Green the Bid. 

Grace:
Since the advertising agency is so multi-faceted, how does Green to Bid engage with all of the different stakeholders?

Julian:
Well, the most important thing is that we elevate this conversation, that it becomes a top-of-mind consideration for all of the stakeholders. Just by asking people to think about it and talk about it, that’s what we’re doing with this work. But specifically, each sector is responsible for a different piece of the equation. So obviously the brand is the one that's paying for the entire production. This is advertising for their products. So if there's any financial consideration to having a sustainable production, that falls on the brand, and we ask that the brands accept that responsibility. The agencies are the next tier below the brands, the agencies are the ones coming up with the ideas, hiring the production companies and the post houses, et cetera. So the agencies we ask to advocate for the brands to pay for whatever is necessary to have a sustainable production, and to take responsibility for elevating this conversation to the advertisers. The production companies we ask to include a line item for sustainability, if there are costs associated with it, and that they defend that if challenged. For post houses it’s mostly about data storage and their energy plan within their office. And then each individual vendor, whether a caterer or a grip and electrical truck, is going to have very different considerations, but we have guidelines that we ask them to adhere to as best they can. 

Jessie:
On the website we have guidelines so that people can reference the recommendations that we have. And a key part of it is this conversation point, which is really to bring the community together. We have member meetings on a quarterly basis, and we also have conversations in between. You can’t know everything, and we’re all often working in siloed ways. By talking to each other, things come up. And then we’re able to either address those or find the right people to be tasked to research something. 

Grace:
Do you also advocate for sustainable practices being shown on screen, and not just in the process of the production? 

Michael:
That's a really important piece of it. We’re spending a little more time on the physical production bit right now, because the creative is really subjective and it's up to the agency to make that happen. But we are definitely encouraging, in a non-prescriptive way, that they should be looking at their projects through that lens. For example if you had a party scene, everybody in that party should not be holding plastic cups. Even what’s on the grill, let’s have some more plant-based stuff on that grill. You don’t have to be preachy about it, you don’t have to point it out. But we present on screen aspirational characters, so we ought to have those characters behaving in a responsible way. 

We present on screen aspirational characters, so we ought to have those characters behaving in a responsible way. 

Grace:
How have you been outreaching to the community and spreading the word about Green the Bid?

Jessie:
We all work in these different aspects of the industry. So although we know a lot of the same people and our paths individually crossed many times, we do collectively have a pretty good network. So we started there, with the people that we know that have maybe even had conversations with us in the past about sustainability. In fact, because of COVID and because people are home, in some ways we had more opportunity to talk to people in a way that it would have been more difficult if we had to make an appointment to see them in an office. Another key part of it is partnering with various organizations, like D&AD and others who have an interest in this area. Even partners like AdGreen and Albert in the UK who are doing similar sustainable things. 

Michael:
It's also kind of growing organically because people are hearing about it indirectly. Ford found us, for example. We were going to get to them, but they called us before we reached out to them. There’s a certain social proof once you hit a critical mass, and we’re just at the beginning. It’s just going to cascade organically, hopefully, to where it’s the standard across the entire global industry. It sounds audacious, but we're heading that way.

Julian:
And some of our members have relationships with a lot of different companies. Like an agency is going to have 5, 10, or 20 different clients, and if they really truly commit to doing this and to elevating this conversation, then that means that they’re introducing this notion to a lot of different brands and production companies. It is this ecosystem of connections and communications that are going to make this a much more mainstream, broadly accepted topic. 

Jessie:
We are a word of mouth industry, that’s how most people get their business and it’s how we do business. And I think that’s the same here. When companies look at each other and they recognize each other as member companies, they know that they’ll uphold their part of it, or do their best to uphold their part of it. So when they feel that, it can be very powerful. 

Grace:
Why is it uniquely important to do this type of work in the advertising industry as opposed to film or television?

Julian:
The short answer is that's the industry we're all in. We see what's in front of us. We see what the problems are. We see how we can improve things. And so we get together and that’s what we’re going to focus on. That certainly could expand to other areas of production and perhaps beyond, but I think that’s why our work started where it did. 

Jessie:
There are a lot of brands that are making commitments towards being more sustainable brands. And as they do that, they have to consider the elements of production, including how they’re communicating to their customers. We think many brands haven’t yet considered that. But when we talk to people at brands, they immediately understand it. 

We're seeing a shift in society right now where people are really holding the brands and products that they purchase and consume and love, in many cases, accountable.

Julian:
We're seeing a shift in society right now where people are really holding the brands and products that they purchase and consume and love, in many cases, accountable. They want the companies that they buy from to express their values in the marketplace. People really keep a mental track of what the brands and products that they consume stand for, at least in their minds. And so I think we’re seeing that change, brands are really taking notice of that and realizing they need to step up and reinforce that image that they’re projecting. 

Michael:
I'd also say that just the sheer volume of commercial production is why it's so important to really push this through in advertising. Film and television it's important too, and there's a lot of film and television production, but there are so many commercials being shot all the time, all over the world. And the gestation period from concept to delivery is much shorter than for a film or TV show. So you can actually affect more people and more communities by shifting the advertising industry. 

Jessie:
I think in film and television there has been a movement to make this change. And then when people in the advertising space were looking at some of the guidelines and recommendations, it didn't really snugly fit with the way that things get done in advertising. So sometimes the reaction was, we just won’t do it. Or we don’t know how to do it, or we can’t relate. We wanted to make sure we were speaking the language of the people that we wanted to be able to hear it. 

Grace:
What is your hope or vision for the advertising industry, 5-10 years from now?

Julian:
I think that all of us would agree that our hope would be that 5, 10, 15 years from now you don't need Green the Bid. That we’re not talking about green sets and sustainable production, it’s just a set. It’s just a production. It’s just completely the norm. 

Michael:
I'd like to see us net carbon neutral and zero waste as an industry by 2025, which is ambitious, but it's very doable. I’d like to see it actually truly regenerative by 2030, so that we’re actually net carbon negative. Sustainable is just the status quo, to be sustainable is just to make it not any worse than it is. But regenerative is the real direction we need to head.

Jessie:
Coming out of a year that's been really difficult for a lot of people, one that's made us confront a lot of the worst sides of society and try to envision what better might look like. I hope that 10 years down the line we’ve solved some of these problems. That we can live a more equitable, a more world-friendly and healthy lifestyle so that we can have a world for our children to enjoy as well. 

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Would you like to participate in a future In Conversation video interview? Email grace@shift.io for more information. 

Grace Amodeo is a Content Marketing Manager at Shift. She is a graduate of Emerson College, where she studied film with a concentration in directing narrative fiction. Grace lives in Los Angeles.
Read more by Grace Amodeo