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Companies cashing in on Live Earth

/ Source: CNBC

The Live Earth concert series will finally be staged in eight cities around the world on Saturday, but all the businesses involved have been capitalizing on the event for months.

The cross-continent, 24-hour event promoting climate-change awareness and starring over 100 musicians is expected to bring together 2 billion viewers, an appealing potential customer pool to businesses. NBC Universal, the official broadcaster, is just one of many tapping into the power of green. Apple, General Motors and American Express are advertising on the worldwide show.

( is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

But the balance between serving good cause and effective marketing has always been tricky. The question for the big businesses thathave jumped on board is how to make the most out of a one-day event without offending people’s good will.

The concert’s predecessor, Live 8 of 2005, caused a backlash on its broadcaster and advertisers. Complaints about MTV and VH1 cutting into songs to air commercials were so strong that the channels were forced to re-air an ad-free version a week later.

This time, NBC is working with advertisers to cut down ad time from 18 minutes per hour to ten, hoping that fewer ads should keep people tuned in and advertisers will earn much more than just commercial time.

Advertising executives say it’s a smart move; they call the result "MIRP" or "media impressions beyond rating points." They say it’s the word of mouth that really counts.

“If they (advertisers) can use that logo - we're part of Live Earth, and we're with the green generation - that's smart advertisers," said Marc Hughes of Buzzmarketing, an alternative advertising agency.

Companies are also using Live Earth's global reach to expand their own scope. MSN is creating custom sites for countries around the world, hoping to turn concert-related traffic into new users. (MSN is owned by Microsoft,'s joint venture partner with NBC Universal.)

“We saw it as an opportunity to introduce a new audience to what MSN has to offer, and engage existing customers,” said Lisa Gurry, a senior director at MSN. “We're also planning to use it as a launching pad. We see a lot of long-term potential.”

MSN says it has already got million of hits on its Live Earth site, and expects to continue cashing in.

Companies want to be green. Live Earth not only gives them that image, but also allows them to help the cause. PepsiCo is launching campaigns to help people recycle. Verisign, a telecom service company, is providing mobile texting to let people interact with the concert.

“Allowing the consumer to use the cell phone to pledge to the Live Earth cause was very unique and exciting for us to be involved in,” said Jeff Treuhaft of Verisign.

Check out Julia Boorstin's blog, .