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Sustainability messaging makes TV ads more memorable, claims Sky

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By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

April 26, 2023 | 5 min read

Sustainability-message TV ads are more memorable and effective than non-sustainable ads says the media giant.

Olio campaign 'Lets not waste our world' previous Sky Zero Footprint World winner

Olio’s ‘Let’s not waste our world’ campaign, a Sky Zero Footprint World winner / Olio

A survey from Sky claims to have answered the big question of whether ads carrying green messages actually resonate with viewers. It found that sustainability TV ads are 5% more engaging and have a 15% higher positive brand perception than non-sustainability ads among Sky customers.

As part of its £2m Sky Zero Footprint Fund, Sky Media tested 52 campaigns on a UK-representative audience of over 5,300 Sky participants to uncover the impact of sustainability advertising.

For the purposes of the test, ‘sustainable ads’ were those carrying a positive message of sustainability, a rep for the brand explained an ad merely featuring an electric car, for example, wouldn’t make the cut unless it was encouraging a green message.

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So, in response, three in five of Sky customers say sustainability influences brand choice. Sustainable campaigns elicited positive brand perceptions across all categories with energy (16% higher than non-sustainable ads), finance (9%) and tech (10%) having the greatest uplift.

The report uncovered that sustainable ads had a 0.3% uplift in unaided recall and 1.9% for aided recall along with an even higher 11.2% for explicit recall. And there are more positive results below.

Sky Recall data

But landing a sustainable campaign can be tricky, with many brands falling foul of greenwashing. The research found audiences respond positively to credible and backed-up claims; clear messages that are devoid of vagueness; the correct tone and voice of authority and the creative execution linked to the green messaging.

Sustainable ads that featured people performed 7% higher compared to ads without and children have a particularly strong impact with a 5% uplift in consumers considering green issues when a child is featured. Finally, documentary-style ads drove an 8% higher brand credibility than traditional TV spots.

Digging into the audience interviews Sky uncovered ads with big budgets were less well received. High production values can raise red flags for consumers the report said along with wasting money on hiring celebrities or influencers.

Elsewhere, Sky Media looked back at past effectiveness studies to compare 600 campaigns across seven categories and found sustainability-led campaigns came out more effective in all areas and increased areas like recall by as much as 12%.

The findings of the research can’t be taken for granted. It has not been substantially proven that sustainable ads are landing any better for consumers, and amid a wave of greenwashing claims, that they are thoroughly convinced. For instance, recent research from GFK found more than half of US consumers couldn’t recall a single sustainable brand. Those findings and the recent Sky survey seem almost incompatible in their results, albeit, with the respondents being on the other side of the Atlantic.

Just how appealing is sustainable messaging will be asked by many brands. And the next question would be: are brands actually making good ads with sustainable messages? There has been no shortage of brands trying to break out of a sustainable consumer niche to go mainstream, indicating that there is growth ahead.

And then there’s the concern that the cost of living crisis will overshadow the other crisis of our times, the climate crisis as the main insight driver of any creative.

Even giants like Unilever are coming under fire for its massive emphasis on sustainability and brand purpose, which marketing chief Conny Braams rallied against one year ago.

Either way, purpose-led marketers will be buoyed by the research from Sky.

Want to learn more about the most important issue of our time? Senior reporter Ellen Ormesher will explore the role of advertising and marketing in the climate crisis. Case studies, tips, interviews and more. Register your interest.

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