How exciting is climate protection on television?

Major research project on sustainability communication

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"Climate" is the number one topic in the media. New media strategies should now ensure that it does not disappear as quickly as forest dying or ozone in the 80s and 90s. One starting point is the so-called "ecotainment".


Scientists led by Professor Werner F. Schulz from the University of Hohenheim have tested a new form of communication. The researchers examined nearly 70 sustainability contributions in the TV magazine "Welt der Wunder", which runs on Sunday evenings in the context of Hollywood films and series on RTL2. On the basis of extensive GfK data, they checked the shutdown behavior of the spectators.

Environmental topics quite popular

The result: whether solar powered boats, alternative powertrains for cars, sustainable forestry, organic baby food or the future nutrition of the world's population - environmental and social topics are as popular with RTL2 viewers as mystery topics or fascinating space stories. The investigations were carried out as part of the "balance study", since 2003 one of the world's largest research projects on the mediatization of sustainability, funded by the Federal Ministry of Research.

Intensive audience surveys and group discussions on the contributions confirmed how mass appeal can be met with positive emotional and solution-oriented presentations. Hendrik Hey, world-of-miracle producer and practice partner of the balance study, emphasizes: "Viewers want to hear from an environmental and climate protection article in a magazine what they can do for a better world." The research team names the new one Communication Approach Ecotainment. Professor Clemens Schwender from Jacobs University Bremen developed the so-called "Ecotainment Index" within the balance study in order to measure the audience's cognitive-emotional participation in sustainability contributions. display

Great deficits in advertising

While the first TV makers are already on a sustainability course, the study shows large deficits in sustainability and climate protection communication in advertising and product marketing. The University of Hohenheim and Jacobs University examined 700 commercials on eight channels within one week during prime time: the researchers found environmental and sustainability arguments

only in 5.3 percent of the spots.

The practice partner Martin Lichtl, whose consulting firm Ethics & Brands carried out just under 40 expert interviews in leading brand-name companies in various industries as part of balance, discovered extremely great uncertainty when dealing with sustainable innovations in product communication. Either the product marketing did not feel responsible for the topic and delegated it to the Corporate Communications department or the marketing decision makers thought in stylistic categories of environmental marketing of the 80's and 90's; Ecotainment or other innovative sustainable communication strategies were alien to them.

Sustainability quite mainstream suitable

"Environmentally friendly, resource-saving or socially equitable are not classified by the companies as convincing buying arguments and as suitable motives for advertising, " explains Schulz. "But our research shows that consumers like these arguments - they just have to be communicated correctly."

Martin Kreeb from the University of Hohenheim sees as an interim result of the large-scale experiment, which was extended by the BMBF until the end of 2008: "Our extensive interdisciplinary analyzes and experiments in the middle of the quota-oriented private television jungle show that every sustainable topic in both the editorial part as well as in advertising for the Mainstream is suitable and can be processed. The mass of viewers is interested in sustainable connections and topics. Now it is up to the media makers and marketing decision makers to break with their traditional ideas of environmental and sustainability communication and to implement innovative strategies, such as ecotainment. "

(University of Hohenheim, 06.07.2007 - NPO)