Every fall a new crop of TV shows debuts, each angling to become the one to see. But watch closely what the characters eat and drink or what’s in their fridges or on their kitchen counters and you’ll notice a common theme: green products. More and more TV characters are carrying their own water bottles, reaching for chia snacks or all-natural gluten-free bars, or even causally composting their food waste.
Product placement on TV has always been big business, but in the past 7 years there’s been an influx of products that are good for us and the environment popping up in shows.
“If we normalize carrying your own water bottle, composting your food waste or having a plant-based product in your fridge, the more these products and behaviors will get integrated into societal norms. You make green normal by showing that being green should be normal,” says Beth Bell, founder of Green Product Placement, which secures media product placement for green, local and social enterprise products on TV and film sets.
Think of Bell and her company as an agent for brands. They work with studios, production companies and production personnel, reviewing opportunities for placement in upcoming episodes and movies and then coordinating to make those placements happen. Sometimes that means simply securing the right amount and type of product for a set where it might appear in a background shot, other times it’s an actor or actress taking a specific action that involves the product, or an onscreen advertising opportunity such as an onscreen bus ad or billboard ad that features the product.
Do you remember seeing Mamma Chia chia drinks and snacks and So Delicious coconut milk in Silicon Valley? Or Melt vegan butter spread in Love and Superstore? Or Manuka honey drops in The Big Bang Theory and Orange Is the New Black? Maybe not, but that was all the work of Green Product Placement.
Bell, who has a background in set decoration, set dressing and props, founded her company after an online conversation with documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, about how a production could align itself with good brands.
“The product-placement companies at the time only had the chemical-laden conventional brands, so we approached a few natural brands ourselves, and that planted the seed,” Bell says.
Over the past 7 years, Bell says she’s seen an increase in green brands doing placement in general and that now the majority of agencies represent at least one “social good” brand or more.
The thought is that product placement works on unconscious influence and decision-making and there are studies that show the effect of placing green brands versus conventional brands can be more effective for both brand and marketing consumer attitudes.
Something to think of the next time you find yourself reaching for coconut milk at the supermarket.