Jean Lee

Client President, Media Group, dentsu Singapore

Many do not know that advertising contributes significantly towards carbon emissions. In fact, advertising is a source of a company’s Scope 3 emissions, which is the indirect upstream and downstream emissions that happen in the value chain of the reporting company.

As media delivery and consumption has yet to become fully associated with carbon emissions in the public eye today, most brands have not made driving more sustainable media practices a priority.

“The Rise of Sustainable Media”, a global study by dentsu and Microsoft Advertising reported that:

  • 72% of people in APAC (specifically the younger generation), view experiencing an ad as having a negative impact on planet;
  • 84% are more likely to buy from a company that practises sustainable advertising.
  • There is a willingness to switch media platforms to aid with the climate emergency.

We know that consumers today are ready to opt-in to a better, greener ways to sustainable media advertising. Hence, it is important for brands to start embarking on this green journey, sustainably and sincerely.

To make it work, brands will need to overcome the key challenge of establishing a common standard for measuring and reporting the carbon footprint of media advertising. This is something that needs to be addressed soon, as many consumers are defining this on their own and are making choices based on their understanding.

What’s stopping us from driving more sustainable media practices?

One of the key barriers to moving towards sustainable media practices is education. Until today, many advertisers are unstill unaware that the process by which ads get placed in front of consumers is carbon-intensive at every stage. 

According to a report by Playground xyz, the average digital ad campaign releases 5.4 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. That is 35% more than what an average person emits in a year. Therefore, unless brands attain a greater understanding of the issues at hand, efforts to drive more sustainable media practices will be kept to the minimal.

Another common barrier is the gap in business priorities. For most companies,  financial priorities would often than not overshadow sustainability targets. Marketers are pressured to meet KPIs focused on deliveries at the lowest cost possible. Yet, sustainable media practices do not come cheap and hence will become secondary.

Until brands see the business value in prioritising sustainable practices, they will undoubtedly continue their usual ways of doing things.

Relooking media strategies for more sustainable outcomes

To achieve sustainable outcomes, naturally we will want to target the reduction in carbon emissions. Before we try and cut our carbon footprint, we will need to measure and benchmark the carbon cost of our campaigns.

Brands can start off by accurately map emissions across the entire media ecosystem and develop a holistic scorecard to make more informed decisions about their media plans.

At the very basic level, brands can relook at the way they buy media, by:

  • Switching digital spend to low or no carbon providers;
  • Shortening the journey from data centre to audience;
  • Reviewing and managing ad assets. For example, simply adjusting the file size will not only reduce carbon usage, but also reduce ad latency, which will drive better performance;
  • Working with tech partners to reduce carbon footprint
  • Using recycled paper in offline OOH display ads. This will, in turn, push suppliers to drive down costs due to demand.

There are many little steps that brands can start taking to achieve more sustainable media practices. It starts by understanding and acknowledge the positive impact that these practices can bring to their businesses. We have seen that there are many companies within the advertising industry that have started venturing into ways where they can be more sustainable and yet not compromising on campaign effectiveness. And so, we are confident that this is a long-term approach that can be beneficial to all.

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