Sustainability has become a critical global issue as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. While industries such as manufacturing, transportation, and agriculture have traditionally been the focus of sustainability efforts, digital advertising has now emerged as a critical area that requires attention.
Digital advertising has revolutionized the way businesses promote their products and services, providing unprecedented opportunities for reaching a wide audience. However, the rapid growth of digital advertising has come with its own set of environmental challenges.
The environmental impact of digital adverts, including the energy consumption associated with data centers, creative production, and processing automated media buying requests, has raised concerns about sustainability and the legacy of its carbon footprint.
Knowing Your Number
One of the primary concerns regarding digital advertising is the energy consumption associated with data centers, which power and cool the servers that store and process the massive amount of data generated by digital advertising activities. As estimated by a climate study by Ad Net Zero in January 2020 emissions from digital advertising could exceed 1 million tons in CO2 emissions per year.
Fortunately, companies like Good-Loop and AdGreen have developed carbon calculators for advertisers and agencies to measure the carbon footprint of their campaigns and manage energy consumption. Good-Loop has partnered with several ad tech and media quality vendors such as Integral Ad Science to allow for efficient measurement with no additional tagging, allowing advertisers to compare media quality metrics against carbon footprint measurements.
The rise of real-time media buying has enabled advertisers to increase cost efficiencies and time to market while effectively targeting relevant audiences. While increased targeting sophistication can reduce energy consumption of an individual campaign by optimizing ad delivery, auction-based bidding requires a significant amount of energy to process thousands of ad calls within nanoseconds to determine the single winning impression. With millions of automated bids being processed each day, placing ads in front of consumers quickly becomes a carbon-intensive process.
Programmatic vendors, such as Sharethrough, are beginning to offer private marketplace deals with net-zero carbon emissions as part of an initiative to decarbonize digital advertising. Other partners in the space are looking into a batch-based approach, allowing advertisers to place bids on a domain with a singular bid request to limit the energy consumption needed to complete bid requests in real time.
Perhaps one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways advertisers can decrease their carbon footprint lies with creative production. Not only can advertisers limit travel-related carbon emissions by localizing production, but they can also reuse and recycle components of existing creative to form new versions. By using these strategies, advertisers can effectively limit their environmental impact while also creating cost efficiencies.
Advertisers can further reduce environmental impact by reducing the file sizes of digital ad units, reducing the energy needed for the server to deliver. This can take shape as shorter video ads or lighter banner ads.
Connecting With the Consumer
The need for sustainability in digital advertising goes beyond environmental concerns. Consumers today are increasingly conscious about the social and ethical practices of the brands they engage with. Studies have shown that consumers are more likely to support brands that prioritize sustainability and exhibit environmentally and socially responsible practices.
Sustainable advertising practices can help businesses build brand reputation, gain consumer trust, and foster long-term customer loyalty. It can also create a competitive advantage for businesses, as sustainability is becoming a factor in consumer purchasing decisions. Brands that integrate sustainability into their digital advertising strategies can differentiate themselves from competitors and appeal to the growing segment of environmentally conscious consumers.
Innovating Toward Sustainability
The shift toward sustainability in digital advertising presents unique opportunities for innovation and creativity. As advertisers strive to reduce their environmental footprint, it is imperative they explore new and comprehensive ways to create more sustainable campaigns. This includes adopting energy-efficient technologies, strategically repurposing content, optimizing ad delivery, implementing media decarbonization, and engaging in purposeful executions, working with only the necessary vendors to reach their campaign objectives, thereby reducing energy consumption and minimizing waste.
This article was orginally published on LinkedIn by Jessica Peterson, VP, Ad Tech + Optimization.