How can the ad industry create a greener tomorrow?
Posted on 2023 Jan,31  | By Jennifer Al Ghorayeb

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Jennifer Al Ghorayeb, Digital Media Manager at Mediaplus Middle East, shares tips on how we can minimise the impact of digital media on the environment and leave the world a better place.

We are in the midst of a climate emergency. The effects of climate change are being seen in every aspect of our lives. While it may not be as quantifiable as other sectors, the advertising industry is a major driver of climate change.

Research carried out at Good-Loop, an online advertising company, has found that a typical online ad campaign emits 5.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Another recent report published by Purpose Disruptors, an organisation founded by ex-industry leaders, found that online advertising is responsible for an average 28% uptick in the carbon footprint of every person.

So how can we minimise the impact of digital media on the environment and leave the world a better place? Here are some tips:

  • Track the carbon emissions of your own campaigns: There are plenty of available tools online that enable you to measure and benchmark the cost of your online ads to limit your CO2 emissions.
  • Explore carbon offsetting solutions: Carbon offsetting allows business to compensate for their carbon emissions by reducing emissions somewhere else. Carbon offset credits are usually invested into projects in fields such as renewable energy, forest management, water conservation and more.
  • Optimise media assets: Digital ad serving requires a great amount of energy as there are hundreds or thousands of assets being displayed online. Reducing your file size doesn’t just reduce the emissions but also provides better user experience and drives better performance.
  • Consider the 3R approach for your media campaigns: This stands for remove, reduce, recycle.’ Remove content pillars that aren’t essential to tell your brand’s story, reduce your assets and recycle your content when possible.
  • Embrace a low-carbon mindset: Programmatic advertising – defined as the automated buying and selling of online ads – may be one of the most significant contributors to CO2 emissions, with thousands of automated bids happening every second of every day. As a media agency, you should talk to your vendors about their technology infrastructure before committing to any campaign - are they running on green servers, how many SSPs do they utilise? Etc.
  • Innovate wisely and smartly: NFTs are an excellent example of how brands just wanted to jump on a trend without taking into consideration the impact of their participation on the planet. Early estimations of the carbon footprint for the average NFT suggest it is equivalent to the monthly footprint of someone living in the EU.

At Serviceplan Group, we take our responsibility seriously and have already started implementing concrete measures to achieve climate neutrality. As part of its sustainability initiative, Mediaplus Germany launched the ‘Green GRP’ model in 2021, in cooperation with ClimatePartner, a company focusing on carbon offsetting projects, and 9 big players from the German media landscape. The Green GRP calculation model is an industry initiative open to all market participants, which aims to offset all campaign carbon emissions generated by the campaign's advertising placement with certified climate protection projects. 

 "The German advertising market is worth around 25 billion euros net according to the German Advertising Federation (ZAW). If we manage to invest an additional one per cent of the money in carbon offsetting and climate-protection projects, we will have achieved an important contribution for climate protection. If all market participants join in, eventually everyone will run only climate-neutral campaigns,’’ explained Florian Haller, CEO of the Serviceplan Group.

“Net zero carbon” might sound out of reach, and knowing where to start can be tricky for most companies. However, we must remember that we all have a responsibility to preserve our planet. Therefore, adopting a sustainability-first mindset and setting ambitious yet realistic goals are some positive steps that we can take towards a greener ad world.