Part six: promotional decisions
The January 2008 press release from Greensburg Greentown reads as follows:
TOWN REBOUNDING FROM TORNADO TO BECOME ECO-TOURISM DESTINATION
Greensburg, Kansas—Greensburg is the small Kansas town that was decimated by a powerful EF-5 tornado last May, the result of which 12 residents died and the community experienced the loss of 95% of its structures. It is rebuilding as a model green community, focusing on energy self-sufficiency and other principles of sustainability, with the aim to become the greenest community in America.
As a component of this Green Initiative, the nonprofit organization Greensburg Greentown launched a project to oversee the building of a dozen demonstration homes in the community. Each home will showcase different designs, technologies, and products and will serve as a “living science museum” both for residents and visitors. In addition to the educational aspects of this project, these models of sustainable living will also provide bed-and-breakfast type lodging to give people the opportunity to experience green living first-hand, in true eco-tourism fashion. Homes will be constructed of a variety of wall systems including straw bale, insulated concrete forms, structural insulated panels, and traditional wood built with “advanced framing” techniques. Each home will be equipped with monitoring devices to measure the performance of green design under real-world conditions. There are plans for homes incorporating passive solar elements, photovoltaic cells, wind generated power, and myriad other technologies of sustainable design.
Cool idea, sure, but the twelve high-tech, low-impact homes were not going to build themselves. At an estimated cost of $50,000–$300,000 per structure, Greentown’s Catherine Hart and Daniel Wallach have had to hit the pavement and the phones in search of outside help. AT&T, Caroma USA, which manufactures low-flow, dual-flush toilets, Harvest Solar Energy, university architecture departments and green building experts have committed time, expertise, product, and generous cash infusions to the project.
Eco-building guru and educator Dan Chiras of EverGreen Design-Build Partnership plans to build two, 1,200-square-foot wind and solar “eco lodges.” He and his team of green architects, designers, and builders alone have donated approximately $50,000. “Businesses are showing an outpouring of generosity,” Chiras said in a March 2008 press release. He has received donations of wind and solar systems, to discount energy rating and LEED certification for his project.
Despite all the generous donations of product and labor the project has received, the folks at Greentown must work hard to keep this and other Greensburg projects moving forward. Executive Director Dan Wallach is always on the lookout for like-minded organizations to help him keep Greensburg on the map.
Ogden Publications of Topeka, Kansas has been working in the greenspace for decades. Their most popular magazine, Mother Earth News, was started in 1970 around the time of the very first Earth Day and features projects you can do to reduce your impact on the environment. They also publish Natural Home, a popular decorating and lifestyle magazine for those interested in greening up their homes.
One day, not long after the tornado hit, publisher and editorial director Bryan Welch received a call from Daniel Wallach at Greentown. Wallach was looking for a partner on the model homes project. Natural Home had recently begun work on a model green home in Brooklyn, New York, and Ogden had experience working on similar projects in the past offering advertisers priority product placement in exchange for donations and sponsorship. “We got involved because we thought it was cool,” says Welch of the Greensburg project. “If it hadn’t attracted all this attention, it would still be cool, so it was a safe bet.”
Ogden Publications and Mother Earth News enjoy a reputation for being an authority on sustainable living. This gives them a lot of credibility with their readers. But to potential advertisers, it’s scary. Welch admits it has been a challenge explaining to advertisers and partners that we’re not “a bunch of holier than thou old hippies” ready to rip their product’s greenness to shreds. For the Greensburg project, he is up against another hurdle. The whole point of the demonstration homes is for them to become a destination for visitors, a resource for builders and consumers, and potentially a home for residents. If an advertiser is placing a donated product for the purposes of advertising, in six months, that product is outdated and they’ve moved on to another promotion. If the buildings are going to be living examples of a sustainable lifestyle, it’s impractical to replace the toilets or bamboo flooring every few months. Brian recognizes this is a tricky proposition and one that will take some time to work out completely.
In the meantime, Mother Earth News and Natural Home will continue to reach out to their million-plus Web visitors urging them to help keep the greenest town in America moving forward.
Answers to Questions for Critical Thinking
1. What are the challenges in soliciting product placements and donations for the Model Homes Project?
2. To which sales channels does Greensburg Greentown market the Model Homes Project?
3. Why is personal selling an important aspect of Ogden Publications’ approach to advertisers?
4. Why is advertising more advantageous for Ogden’s ad clients?