SustainabiliTEA (cont’d): Boyd Matson & Lipton Tea

LiptonTallIn an earlier post, we highlighted the new National Geographic Society partnership with Lipton Tea…

“…to create custom content documenting [Lipton’s] journey and commitment to sustainability. The content, created by National Geographic, includes still photography as well as four videos produced by National Geographic Digital Media featuring National Geographic Television journalist Boyd Matson, who traveled to Kenya this spring to document the sustainability practices of the Lipton Tea Estate in Kericho.”

Advertisers have long sought favorable “ad adjacencies” in National Geographic. But now advertisers don’t want “next to,” they want “inside of.” They want—or demand—a tight integration with the editorial content so there’s virtually no way you can miss the advertisement unless you skip the story entirely.

Lipton clearly benefits when National Geographic journalist Boyd Matson sips tea while rhapsodizing about Lipton’s sustainable farming practices. But do campaigns like this strengthen our Society’s “brand equity”?

We seriously doubt it. After all, brand equity is what Lipton is buying and our Society is selling.

But see what you think. Here’s a screenshot of how the videos are presented at



And here’s one of Boyd’s videos—titled “Lipton’s Story.”


Is SustainabiliTEA—and other campaigns like it—a sustainable business strategy for our Society? Or is it another example of “shaving the bear”?
    UPDATE (6 August 2009): Some reactions from Mark Glaser, Executive Editor of PBS MediaShift and Idea Lab, via Twitter (@mediatwit):
    • I think the Nat’l Geo video done as sponsored content for Lipton looks way too much like editorial. Thu Aug 06 21:38:55
    • There’s actually an ad that runs before the Lipton video, and nowhere before or after the video does it say sponsored content. Thu Aug 06 21:39:54
    • There’s just one line below the video’s title and below the video player that mentions it’s sponsored content. Needs to be much clearer. Thu Aug 06 21:40:26
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