Let's say you're watching your favorite program on CBS (this is a hypothetical, of course) when during a commercial you see an ad for the household cleaner you use. OK, let's say that ad also features a pretty little logo at the bottom of the screen that includes the words "Eco" and "Ad" sandwiched between some green leaves.
Would such a branding lead you to believe that the product shown on screen is somehow earth-friendly?
According to four environmental organizations, the answer is yes — and they've filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) arguing that CBS' new campaign is misleading and a perfect example of "greenwashing." From the NY Times:
The logo “clearly suggests to viewers that the products or services advertised provide environmental benefits,” the organizations wrote in their letter to the commission, “when there may be no basis for such a claim.”
The EcoAd program was introduced by the network in January as a way to fundraise for environmental and clean-energy projects in local communities. Company A purchases ad time through the program, CBS donates a portion of the revenue and in return slaps the pretty little EcoAd badge on the commercial.
In response to the complaint, CBS said that a disclaimer on its website clearly states what the EcoAd badge is and isn't.
"EcoAd is not a certification program nor is the EcoAd logo a seal of approval," the disclaimer reads. “EcoMedia does not in any way certify, endorse or make any representations about EcoAd advertisers, their products or services.”
Of course, you and I both know that anyone spotting the label during a commercial probably isn't going to jump online to learn more, something CBS hopes to remedy with separate announcements highlighting the program.
I have an idea: If CBS is really interested in doing some good for local communities, why not just offer advertisers the opportunity to participate sans logo? If they're really interested in the PR, the network could release a quarterly ad thanking "the following companies" for their contributions — or lauding them online and through social media. I agree with the organizations that simply slapping a leafy logo on an ad for something like insect repellant is rather incongruous.
The FTC has yet to respond to the complaint.