As the world becomes increasingly digital, the impact of online advertising on the environment is becoming a growing concern. The carbon footprint of digital advertising is significant, with a typical digital ad campaign for a single brand producing hundreds of tons of carbon dioxide. This is why the move to make online marketing carbon neutral is gaining momentum, with industry players exploring ways to reduce their impact on the environment.
A recent study by media investment analysis firm Ebiquity PLC and Scope3 PBC has highlighted the amount of carbon emissions generated by digital advertising. The study examined 116 billion digital display ad impressions valued at $375 million from 43 advertisers in 11 global markets in 2021 and 2022. It estimated the energy it takes to deliver an ad impression by looking at factors such as auctions and emissions from the end-user’s device.
The study found that roughly 15% of ad spending goes to so-called made-for-advertising websites that generate high carbon emissions. These sites crowd the screen with ads and low-quality content, and they often involve ad-tech intermediaries that offer services such as matching marketers with particular target audiences. The placements are often made inadvertently, and brands don’t seek to advertise on these sites.
The companies behind the study recommend reallocating ad budgets to web publishers with lower carbon footprints. The consumer experience on made-for-advertising sites is poor, as is the effectiveness of advertising on them. By investing in high-quality journalism and avoiding low-quality websites, advertisers can reduce their carbon footprint and have a more positive impact on the environment.
The advertising industry consumes a significant amount of energy, leading to carbon emissions. Many websites trigger automated auctions for various ad spaces every time a consumer arrives on one of their pages, involving ad-tech intermediaries that offer services such as matching marketers with particular target audiences. It’s difficult to calculate just how much electricity online advertising consumes, but a study published in 2018 estimated that 10% of the energy usage of the internet results from online ads.
The impact of digital advertising on the environment goes largely unnoticed by consumers, but it’s essential to consider the amount of energy consumed by our digital devices and the internet, and the carbon emissions associated with them. As we become more reliant on technology, it’s increasingly important to take steps to reduce our carbon footprint.
To achieve carbon neutrality in online advertising, it’s important to identify the main sources of emissions in the digital ad supply chain. These include the production of ad creatives, programmatic ad transactions, ad targeting and measurement, and the delivery of ads across various platforms.
Advertisers can take steps to reduce their carbon footprint by localizing ad production to reduce travel-related carbon emissions, using 3D modeling animation instead of video shooting to minimize the CO2 emissions produced by production crew travels and utilized equipment, producing shorter video and image ads to reduce the size of the files and the carbon emissions associated with them, and avoiding low-quality websites that generate high carbon emissions.
One innovative solution that has already been implemented by OpenX Media LatAm and SeenThis is adaptive streaming technology. This technology uses lower data transfer on ad campaigns compared to sending a video of corresponding quality using conventional technology, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint. The technology was used to stream Coca-Cola and Sprite video campaigns as display banners regionally, including markets in Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and more. The initial 23.5 million video ad impressions were estimated to be 25% lower than running video of corresponding quality using conventional ad serving technology, resulting in avoided CO2 emissions.
The move towards carbon neutrality in online advertising is not just about being environmentally friendly – it’s also about building trust with consumers. As people become more aware of their carbon footprint, they are likely to favor brands that take steps to reduce their impact on the environment. The advertising industry has a responsibility to be more transparent about the environmental impact of their campaigns and to take action to reduce their carbon footprint.
Consumers are increasingly concerned about climate change, and they are willing to take action to reduce their impact on the environment. According to a study by Nielsen, 81% of global consumers feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment. Consumers are also willing to pay more for sustainable products and services, with 73% of global consumers saying they would change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact.
For advertisers, this means that taking steps towards carbon neutrality is not just the right thing to do – it’s also good for business. By reducing their carbon footprint, advertisers can attract environmentally conscious consumers and build a positive reputation for their brand.
The advertising industry has made some progress towards reducing its carbon footprint in recent years, but there is still a long way to go. In 2021, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) launched a global framework to reduce the carbon footprint of the advertising industry. The framework includes guidelines for measuring and reporting carbon emissions, setting targets for emissions reductions, and implementing sustainable practices across the advertising supply chain.
The WFA’s framework is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to achieve carbon neutrality in online advertising. The industry needs to work together to develop innovative solutions that reduce the carbon footprint of digital advertising, such as adaptive streaming technology. Advertisers also need to take responsibility for their impact on the environment and take action to reduce their carbon footprint.
One challenge in achieving carbon neutrality in online advertising is the lack of transparency in the supply chain. Advertisers often work with multiple intermediaries, making it difficult to track the carbon emissions associated with each campaign. To address this issue, the industry needs to develop standardized reporting methods and work together to share data on carbon emissions.
Another challenge is the lack of consumer awareness about the carbon footprint of digital advertising. Many consumers are unaware of the impact of their digital devices on the environment, and they may not realize that their online activity generates carbon emissions. To address this issue, advertisers need to be more transparent about the environmental impact of their campaigns and educate consumers about ways to reduce their carbon footprint.
The move to carbon neutral is an important step towards reducing the advertising industry’s impact on the environment. Advertisers have a responsibility to take action to reduce their carbon footprint and build trust with environmentally conscious consumers. By working together and developing innovative solutions, the advertising industry can achieve carbon neutrality and contribute to a more sustainable future.