Emilia Chambers

Head of Digital, Carat VIC

Digital media, in the past, has been considered a greener advertising medium compared to the physical – “my digital ad won’t end up in landfill like a print one would” – and that is correct.

However, we didn’t consider one critical factor in that statement; digital media is powered by energy and this energy generates emissions at all stages of the process, from the creation of the ads, to the power needed to run the consumers computer which is being served the ad.

This isn’t new news for many of us, but what is new is our ability to better measure the impact our digital campaigns are having, as well as being able to break down the silos of sustainable media and efficient media.

Scope3 launched their methodology into the Australian market that delivers an accurate, end-to-end data model of digital supply chain emissions. This allows digital media to be measured against carbon emissions, giving brands the opportunity to accurately track their environmental impact and now make optimisations based on the results they’re seeing. And it’s this optimisation opportunity that is largely thanks to the measurement of attention.

The measurement of attention came crashing into the industry in 2021 as a new metric for marketers to consider. It was viewed as the evolution of viewability and a way to better measure media effectiveness due to the belief that correlations could be drawn between higher ad attention and business outcomes. In the same year, a study by Teads, in partnership with Denstu, highlighted that “attention is three times better at predicting outcomes than viewability as initial findings showed that viewability alone is no longer a good enough metric to measure how consumers are reacting to content on a page”.

However, it was, and still is, a metric that struggles with various methodologies, making it too challenging to standardise across the industry. Due to this, the metric is often tracked by brands or agencies, but is relegated to a metric used for planning purposes and not in-campaign optimisation. In September 2022, IAB released their first Ad Attention Measurement Landscape Report which uncovered that 64% of agency respondents were intending to use ad attention insights for media planning in the next year, but in contrast, only 30% of agency respondents were planning to use ad attention insights to inform ad targeting decisions and only 29% for adjusting creative design.

But there is still a strong need for the attention metric, and this brings us back to sustainability. Last week in the UK, Playground XYZ released findings from a recent study which found that carbon emissions from digital ads fall by 63% on average when measured and optimised for attention time. The study examined 45 million ad impressions and found the average digital ad campaign releases 5.4 tons of carbon into the atmosphere. But when domains where the attention time is below 0.5 seconds were removed, the total emissions fell on average by 63%, while the average attention time per impression grew by nearly 40%.

This study shows that not only is it possible for brands to reduce carbon emissions for digital campaigns, but they can do this while improving their media efficiency. By using attention as a determinator of environmental impact, quantifies what many marketers knew; that less wastage would have a positive impact on emissions. For brands who are considering moving to a greener way to run their digital media, the best way to start is to first establish your testing parameters, including budgets and audiences. From here, speak to your agency or external partner to establish what opportunities best suit your test and intention; opportunities can be both measurement focused and optimisation focused.

Remember that the opportunity to run sustainability focused media is still in its early stages so testing should be done in the same manner that you would test any other new technology in market. But what makes this testing opportunity more valuable than others is that it can provide tangible results that can be used to bring sustainability and efficiency together into the one conversation that we haven’t been able to have before. It’s an activation that has the ability to positively impact the business, the consumer, and, arguably the most important, the planet.

Emilia Chambers is Head of Digital, Victoria, at carat, a dentsu company.

This article originally appeared in Mumbrella.