27. 12. 202327. 12. 2023
Television adverts with an environmental message are no more emotionally engaging than the average commercial, according to an analysis by System1.

System1 analysed 1,000 randomly selected adverts from the last three years to assess whether they contained environmental messages and how these were being communicated.

The analysis found that across System1’s ad testing metrics, ads containing an environmental message performed in line with the UK average commercial. This contrasts with diversity representation in ads, for example, which previous System1 analysis has found to boost engagement.

System1 conducted the study for The Greenprint, an industry guide it has developed with ITV and behavioural scientist Richard Shotton.

Out of the 1,000 ads analysed, 8% contained an environmental message, while another 9% included a sustainability message that related to one of the non-environmental sustainable goals as outlined by the United Nations. The majority ( 83%) of ads in the sample contained no environmental or sustainability messaging.

Of the 83 ads containing environmental messages, a fifth ( 22%) talked about recycling or reducing waste, while another fifth ( 22%) talked about meat alternatives.

System1 used the same quantitative model in the research as it uses for its commercial ad effectiveness testing, which aims to measure viewers’ emotional responses to ads. The approach combines a star rating, spike rating and fluency rating to offer three measures of creative impact on commercial effectiveness.

For advertisers looking to develop more effective environmental or sustainable advertising, the report’s recommendations include offering consumers alternative, cost-effective solutions, using wider cultural triggers such as the COP Summit or new year, and employing fluent devices – brand characters which recur across ads and build familiarity.

Richard Shotton, founder, Astroten, said: “Marketing has the potential to be a force for good by encouraging climate-friendly behaviours. However, there are wild differences in the effectiveness of ad campaigns. That makes it crucial to learn from the growing body of behavioural science experiments that reveal the best tactics for encouraging sustainability.”

Jon Evans, chief customer officer, System1, said: “Effective environmental narratives in advertising play a vital role in inspiring long-term change. The Greenprint serves as a guide on how to captivate audiences and encourage them to step up to the climate challenge.”

Kate Waters, director of client strategy and planning, ITV, added: “ITV can play an important role in helping the nation move faster towards a lower-carbon economy and part of our commitment to doing that is to help advertisers create advertising that works hard to drive the change we need.”

System1 randomly selected 1,000 ads from 2020-2023 using its database of UK TV ads, and looked whether they contained environmental messages. If they did, System1 grouped them according to the area they focused on (e.g. energy, alternative transport, waste reduction etc.) and analysed how the ads communicated the message and the emotional responses they generated.

System1 then chose a subset of 11 top-performing ads for further analysis – from this, it established the key themes explored in the report.

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