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    Digital Ads and their Carbon Footprint: Aiming towards Net-Zero Advertising

    How do you contribute to a net-zero future with your everyday decisions? Choosing local and seasonal food, prioritizing public transportation, reducing long-haul flights, using renewable-based heating are just some of the common ways. As forward-thinking marketers, however, we have yet another serious factor to consider: the carbon footprint caused by digital advertising. 

    Intrigued? Check out our selection of insights on the subject from two recent thought-provoking analyses by Business Insider and WARC:

    • Measure the hidden cost of digital advertising. According to WARC, a recent Purpose Disruptors report found the advertising industry could be adding as much as 28% more to the annual carbon footprint of every person. Meanwhile, research carried out at Good-Loop has found a typical online ad campaign emits 5.4 tons of carbon dioxide – a third of what an average US consumer produces in a year. According to a recent estimate from Fifty-Five, a marketing agency, a typical digital-ad campaign — consisting of shooting, editing, serving, and measuring video, social, display, and search ads — for a single advertiser produces 323 tons of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent of 160 round-trip flights between Paris and New York. As per a WSJ article, it’s difficult to calculate the precise amount of electricity that online advertising consumes. But a study on the topic released in 2018 reveals that roughly 10% of the energy usage of the internet comes from online ads, an estimate the researchers say was based on conservative assumptions. Business Insideradds that with digital, or programmatic advertising, powering everything from connected-TV platforms, retail media, and outdoor advertising, the industry’s carbon emissions are only likely to grow in 2022 and beyond.
    • Reduce advertised emissions. In the milliseconds it takes for an ad to load on a webpage, dozens of companies from ad agencies, data-management platforms, ad exchanges, ad servers, and brand-safety vendors take part in a competitive-bidding process to win the auction that serves an ad to a particular type of consumer. According to WARC, on any given page load, a single view can result in far more than 100 calls to servers – managing everything from consent strings, data vendors, SSP calls, DSP calls, ad auction mechanics, and everything in-between. Therefore, a handful of big-brand advertisers — including Nestlé, HP, Toyota, Heineken, and the British supermarket chain Tesco — are examining how they can reduce their digital-advertising footprint. Last year, Nestlé began tracking the emissions tied to its digital ads in Europe. Nescafé in France worked with Impact+, an adtech company, to halve the energy an online video-ad campaign produces. Nescafé France also used a tool from Publicis Groupe to calculate the price of offsetting the carbon emissions of a campaign for KitKat candy in the UK. It came to just £460, or $547 — a small fraction of the £1.6 million, or $1.9 million, campaign.
    • Greener digital-ad buying efforts can boost sales. As Tina Beuchler, the global head of media and partnerships at Nestlé, told Business Insider, there have been encouraging signs from these early tests that greener digital-ad buying efforts can boost sales and other business metrics. Last year, the supermarket chain Tesco began using a carbon calculator from its media agency, MediaCom, to measure emissions across Tesco’s marketing channels, and has turned to vendors like Mobsta to weed out wasted ad impressions. Toyota is working with The&Partnership, a media agency, and SeenThis, a Swedish tech company, to reduce the load times of its digital ads and thereby reduce its campaigns’ data usage. Both HP and Heineken are also in the early stages of determining the environmental impact of their digital spending.
    • Shut off ad-auction platforms to eliminate the carbon footprint. Online advertising makes up at least 1% of global energy consumption, says Mikko Kotila, one of the researchers for an Environmental Impact Assessment of Online Advertising and currently chief technology officer at Cavai, a Norwegian advertising technology company. Scope3, a startup that measures the carbon footprint of digital ads, said The Trade Desk, an adtech giant, eliminated nearly 5,400 tons of carbon a year by shutting off Google’s Open Bidding ad-auction platform, per Business Insider. Scope3 calculated that if every ad company stopped buying ads using Open Bidding, it would save 100,000 metric tons of carbon a year — the same as taking 20,000 cars off the road. 

    As Amy Williams, CEO of ad tech platform Good-Loop, concludes, whether it’s reducing ad latency, reducing your SSP fees or avoiding wasting money on speculative projects, these can all help you extract more value for your money from your media spend – and give the planet a chance to breathe at the same time. 

    Novelty Media, via SmartAdd, provides a sustainable mobile-based media channel serving short video content and ads with a positive impact on the climate change issue. Our platform does not require large file sizes and sophisticated creative output processing, thus reducing carbon footprint and ad latency, and driving better performance. The content is evenly distributed only to real humans throughout the day, not just during the biggest consumption hours, having a significant impact on the amount of CO2 emissions it generates. For further details on our innovative solution and how it facilitates your net zero emission commitments, keep following our Marketing Bites.