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Promotional boxes of food, alcohol and swag long have been part of entertainment industry marketing strategies, mailed to the homes and offices of press and Hollywood insiders ahead of a project’s release. In the pandemic, those mailers became more common, as in-person events were replaced with virtual screenings and Q&As that could benefit from a little extra pizazz.
But frequently these boxes, sent out by studios and streamers, pose an environmental issue: Packaged in plastic or cardboard, they are loaded with perishable items or branded goods that often end up tossed.
Event planner Shannon Warner — who puts together PR boxes for ABC, NBC, HBO and Peacock while prioritizing sustainability — makes sure to employ a reusable “vessel,” as she calls it, turning to Igloo coolers, baskets and wooden crates instead of cardboard boxes. The contents inside are handled with the same care; Warner’s boxes are cushioned with kraft paper and packing from past projects. “If I get a box, open it up and see Styrofoam peanuts, I go crazy,” says Warner, who’s recently worked on promotions for ABC’s The Wonder Years reboot and HBO Max’s The Prince. The goal with her boxes is to “be able to reuse everything in there.”
Sheila Morovati, founder of nonprofit Habits of Waste, suggests other ways to be more eco-friendly. Mailers should start with an opt-in option (as some studios are starting to do), thereby guaranteeing that boxes will go to only those who want them and reduce how many are thrown out. And instead of using new merch — like branded clothing and water bottles — she recommends sending things like tie-dye kits with a stencil of the project name or stickers and bottle wraps to update existing items, helping to reduce the 92 million tons of textile waste created annually, per the BBC.
“It’s just about taking a little bit more time and effort in the preplanning instead of just delegating, like, ‘Oh, I needed you to make a mailer’ and having somebody find the cheapest option,” says Evan Collier of ARCH Production & Design, which works with brands on sustainable activations and pop-ups.
Or, as the past year and a half has shown, there’s always the purely virtual route. Says Levin: “We don’t need to unwrap. We just want to watch. Send a link and save the planet.”
This story first appeared in the Sept. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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