Advertising signs a pact with ecology

If it is unthinkable, in 2022, not to evaluate the “commercial” ROI of your ads, calculating the environmental impact of your digital communications is still not part of the “good gestures” adopted by the planet. But the times are changing. “The sector has been waking up for two years and we are finally experiencing a boost in measuring the ecological, social and societal impact of marketing”, rejoices Assaël Adary, co-founder of the independent consulting and research firm Occurrence. the author of Communication and Responsible Marketing (Dunod, 2022), regrets the ten years lost by the sector, who acknowledges having been passionate, since 2010, about the international standard ISO 26000, dedicated to the social responsibility of organizations. In 2012, Assaël Adary also participated in what the standard calls 122 very poetic pages”is available in a sector-specific application guide for communication professions.

So why the carbon calculators and other tools to measure the impact of campaigns are emerging now? We will have to wait for the combination of several factors “exogenous and endogenous”, as Assaël Adary explains. In addition to a data culture and “good old excel spreadsheet”not always well shared in the communication sector, it is “the pressure exerted by the company and by young talents internally, combined with pressure from the legislator” which, this year, pushed measuring the carbon impact of digital technology to the top of advertising professionals’ to-do lists.

Thus, while the latter do not hesitate to publicize the armed wing of the environmental transition, the Bousquet-Leroy report, presented after the Citizens’ Convention last June, evoked the establishment of “climate contracts”, through the which stakeholders make commitments to the regulator. And media companies are not the only ones worried: on December 16, 2021, Barbara Pompili, Minister of Ecological Transition, brought together the actors of the sector to invent the responsible advertising of tomorrow. Among the measures mentioned: the obligation of advertisers who make more than 100,000 euros of advertising investment per year to declare whether or not they adhere to a climate contract, thus assuming commitments with the regulator. Enough to help the entire sector formalize its commitments in the fight against climate change. Among the work areas mentioned, reduce the impact of campaigns and establish indicators to measure it they are the ones that have given rise to more concrete actions, as evidenced by the multitude of calculators available on the market.

1 campaign = 35 round trips Paris-New York?

What is the ecological impact of a digital advertising campaign? To find out, and let it be known, consulting firm fifty-five launched the calculator. Result: 71 tons of greenhouse gases (CO2) are emitted by a classic digital campaign, based on video advertising, complemented by paid referencing in search engines (SEA), sponsored publications on social networks (socialpaid) and display in display or display programmatic. That’s the equivalent, for one person, of 35 round trips by plane from Paris to New York… or the annual carbon footprint of around 7 French people, for a single campaign. Amazing? “Digital technology is responsible for around 3.5% of global CO2 emissions, growing at 6% a year. That’s more than civil aviation! We can no longer afford to continue this worrying trend, while global warming is underway.court Ludovic Moulard, Head of Delivery Management within fifty-five and member of Project Shift – think tank working for an economy freed from carbon constraint.

In this public study measuring the carbon footprint of the main digital advertising channels (excluding organic channels and CRM), emissions related to creative production are taken into account -management and travel, filming, post-production, offices- and carbon emissions related to the advertising device as such: distribution (depending on the network and data center) and display of digital content (depending on the device), as well as audience targeting (data storage and audience calculation). Result: a typical shooting would represent 35 tons of CO2 “equivalent”, on par with the emission (36 tons). Targeting is equivalent to 100 kilos of CO2 emitted.

1 email campaign = 14 Paris-New York round trips?

A popular contact channel for marketers, email marketing would represent a sending volume equivalent to fourteen round trips from Paris to New York each year, for a team of 100 employees (source: Validity Inc.) . The weight of an email is estimated to be 0.17 grams of CO2 equivalent, according to digital marketer Sendinblue, which sought to measure its own carbon footprint. Signatory to the Climate Law – a group that brings together companies committed to reducing their environmental impact – Sendinblue has quantified, together with Aktio, its own impact at 4,552 tons of CO2 equivalent in one year. A result that takes into account direct carbon emissions, but also indirect ones such as data storage centers, business trips, the software used or even the food and drink made available in the offices, emissions whose weight represents, according to Sendinblue, half the impact. of an email. The same observation with the Kiliba solution, which aims, through a more precise targeting of the campaigns and, therefore, the sending of fewer messages for an equivalent result (1000 clicks), a weight of 0.24 grams per mail email, versus 2 grams per email as part of a non-targeted campaign.

How many trees should be planted for an email campaign? This is the question many carbon offset advertisers must have asked themselves. Since 2020, Canada Goose has each year measured and published the carbon footprint of its direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions from its headquarters, factories, stores and transportation. For its latest “Live in the Open” campaign, the Canadian brand has also worked to reduce the carbon footprint of shooting its promotional film. In alliance with the new production company, he explains that he reduced the carbon footprint of his films by 40%, “a compensated figure compared to a traditional creative agency”. How ? By planting 100 trees (25 tonnes of CO2 offset, according to Canada Goose), creating 17m² of wildflower meadows and wildlife habitat, donating £2000 to charity and 80 hot meals to homeless shelters, supporting local businesses ethically managed, “which reduces the impact of the supply chain”specifies the mark, or even the compensation of 40 tons of carbon emissions for international flights.

Commendable efforts, which go beyond the environmental spectrum alone, but are no longer enough. “Carbon offset promises are not a solution to the problemshares Pierre Harand, Partner of fifty-five. Planting trees, for example, to offset the use of fossil fuels, is not sustainable even though we are deforesting to fuel our way of life. We have to change our behavior.” For Assaël Adary, it is now a “resignation”, that is, “What is a brand willing to give up to have a lower environmental impact?”. A complex change of mentality, “especially since the cost of carbon offsetting, which is still too low, represents a blank check to pollute”regrets the co-founder of the firm Ocurrencia.

What solutions?

To cut your environmental impact in half, without compromising the performance of your digital ads, Fifty Five offers more “realistic” solutions. Brands are invited to favor “local” shoots (limit air travel and encourage on-site equipment rental), to make more use of 3D over shoots, and even to avoid shoots by preferring the recycling of films and /or shots

Second series of tips: lighten the rendering of video, the most “heavy” advertising format. Therefore, it is recommended to prefer shorter videos and lower resolutions to reduce weight. Brands must also rethink their targeting. fifty-five remember the basics: it is necessary to target the most qualified audiences, to reduce unnecessary impressions that generate emissions. With this in mind, the firm offers a new indicator, the “gCO2PM”, the cost of carbon in g CO2 equivalent per 1000 impressions (the twin of the well-known “CPM”) to compare search, display, programmatic, video, and social channels.

To reduce the impact of broadcasting, the idea could be to use the Wi-Fi connection more than the mobile network, which emits six times more CO2. “On content platforms like YouTube, one of the targeting criteria is Wi-Fi. Switching half of your targeting to Wi-Fi dramatically reduces your carbon bill.”says Pierre Harand. Finally, the last suggestion of fifty-five: the reduction of the number of interested parties in programmatic auctions, because the more intermediaries and competitors there are, the more auction calculations and, therefore, emissions. Once is not custom: less is more.

A state of mind that is even more important as digital uses develop. To reduce intermediaries and support the development of the “metaverse”, many brands will be tempted to turn to blockchain and VR, whose environmental impact is certain: let’s not forget that what matters is the production of devices, processors, graphics cards or servers. the maximum in nature. Furthermore, it is the most accessible field of engagement for brands: most do not have a past to come to terms with in terms of digital uses! No risk of being cancelled, and every good reason to rise to the challenge now.

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