CBS EcoMedia Helps Advertisers Put The ‘Aid’ In Paid Media

CBSecomediaAdvertisers carve out a portion of their multibillion-dollar ad budgets – 10% of what they’re spending locally or 5% of what they’re spending nationally – to fund nonprofits that align with their brand DNA.

CBS Corp.’s EcoMedia division – one of the network’s fastest-growing units, according to Paul Polizzotto, who founded EcoMedia in 2001 – can connect those advertisers with one of the 150 different nonprofit organizations it has relationships with around the world.

Chevrolet, for example, worked with EcoMedia to install free electric vehicle charging stations at Pepperdine University in California, while UnitedHealthcare recently partnered with EcoMedia to renovate a community center in San Diego and fund community gardens and after-school nutrition programs in Houston.

One reason CBS (which acquired EcoMedia in 2010) and its advertiser partners are so interested in social responsibility: It attracts millennials. In a recent national survey commissioned by Aflac, 69% of millennials said they would be more likely to spend with a brand that takes corporate social responsibility seriously.

When an advertiser purchases what EcoMedia calls its “WellnessAd” product, the money goes toward causes like healthy meals programs for seniors and schoolchildren, healthcare infrastructure and mobile health clinics. “EducationAds” fund scholarships, arts programs, school supplies and ed tech, while “EcoAds” are earmarked for environmental sustainability efforts like organic gardens, water conservation, renewable energy and reforestation.

In return, EcoMedia produces original commercial content about the brand’s philanthropic efforts and uses CBS owned-and-operated properties as a megaphone to promote it through local CBS TV and radio stations, outdoor and digital media outlets under the CBS Interactive umbrella. The content gets off-platform exposure through partnership deals with affiliates like Meredith, Raycom Media, Gannett, Belo and Fisher.

It’s native ads with a nonprofit twist.

“It’s like a native CSR platform – as in corporate social responsibility,” Polizzotto said. “We’re giving brands the ability to embed their corporate values into content without compromising their branding and marketing efforts. They’re getting effective and efficient media delivery with calls to action on CBS, they’re positively impacting lives in communities and they’re carrying out their various business objectives.”

UnitedHealthcare has been working with EcoMedia for the last four years to help support its “Do Good. Live Well” program, an employee volunteer initiative to decrease hunger and obesity.

“We don’t just want to write checks,” said Shannon Loecher, UnitedHealthcare’s director of social responsibility. “That’s why we choose to apply our CBS ad dollars to volunteer projects across the country.”

In March, CBS EcoMedia launched an initiative that allows consumers to do the same with Viewers to Volunteers (V2V), an app that rewards users with points for reading, viewing and sharing inspirational content, including original videos created through a partnership with documentarian Morgan Spurlock.

The points can then be converted into cash and donated to participating nonprofits, everything from Stand Up To Cancer to the Arbor Day Foundation. CBS advertisers – Toyota is the inaugural sponsor – underwrite the donations with a portion of their ad spend, meaning users can give to charity without having to spend their own money.

viewers2volunteersV2V users have raised more than $815,000 dollars for nonprofit organizations focused on the environment, health and wellness, education and veterans’ issues.

“There’s no advertising in the app, so it’s not an ad impression – it’s a give impression, like a GPM instead of a CPM,” Polizzotto said. “We feel strongly that an ad impression on CBS combined with a give impression through our digital giving platform will outperform a standard ad impression.”

It’s an assertion CBS EcoMedia is in the process of trying to prove out with ongoing research studies into the brand recall of a give impression. But Polizzotto is confident it’s the right move, especially when it comes to marketing to millennials.

“It’s an opportunity to express brand value to audiences in general and millennial audiences in particular,” Polizzotto said. “But it’s not just about the content. It’s about giving people the ability to create tangible, measurable change they can see in the community.”

Although Polizzotto declined to share specific numbers, he did say EcoMedia has generated millions in incremental ad sales for CBS.

“And it’s all made possible through paid media,” he said. “Without being able to leverage the ad spend made by corporations, we wouldn’t have a business model.”

In addition to UnitedHealthcare, Toyota and Chevrolet, CBS EcoMedia works with a long list of advertisers that includes AT&T, Bank of America, Chase, Honda, BMW, Lexus, Snapple, Hampton Inn, Energizer, YP, Benjamin Moore, Farmers Insurance, GMC, Acura and others.

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