Could one reduce the carbon footprint of digital advertising? When it comes to carbon emissions, digital is often criticised, and programmatic advertising in particular. How big is that footprint? And how could one minimise it? How are advertisers reacting? A recent Scope3 study sheds light on this subject. It shows that the digital marketing industry can also contribute to the common effort. This is what Fabien Omont, a representative of Adform, a Danish provider of solutions for digital advertising, told me when I interviewed him.
Disclosure: This podcast was produced in partnership with Ecran mobile on behalf of Adform, an Adtech provider. We have written this post with our usual objective of independence and authenticity.
Fabien Omont is Product Marketing Director at Adform. The Adtech company works with Scope3. The latter has just published its report on the State of Sustainable Advertising. By their own admission, Scope3 is ‘the only company to measure end-to-end emissions from across the media and advertising supply chain’.
Scope3 has estimated the CO2 emissions from programmatic advertising at 215,000 metric tonnes of CO2 per month in 5 countries alone. These are Australia, France, Great Britain, Germany and the USA.
The US Alone Accounts for Nearly Half of These Emissions
In the UK only, each month programmatic advertising emits 30.6k metric tonnes of CO2
‘Digital advertising has become widespread,’ explains Fabien. The Internet amounts to 65.15% of the overall advertising expenditure for a worldwide total of over US$550 billion. This is indeed considerable.
‘But beyond these figures, it is important to understand the main factors behind the carbon footprint of digital advertising,’ Fabien went on.
‘Ad selection definitely is the main driver behind carbon emissions of digital advertising. It weighs a lot more than terminal usage of even media distribution,’ Fabien explained.
60% of the carbon footprint of programmatic advertising is due to ad selection
‘The reality of digital advertising,’ explains Fabien, ‘is that the practice of header bidding has become almost universal amongst publishers.
“This is a practice which, to put it simply, consists in increasing the amount of advertising calls to optimise monetisation, i.e. generating double or triple bids, which will inflate the price of the winning bid and therefore make more money in the end.”
This approach is quite commendable from the point of view of monetisation and optimisation of the publisher’s income, Fabien explained, but its impact on carbon footprint is huge.
However, advertisers are aware of the problem. This is a good sign Fabien Omont said.
Advertisers’ attitudes are changing and that’s good news
“Advertisers are very curious about what’s going on and the initiatives taken by start-ups like Scope3 and other tech players like Adform,” explains Fabien.
“Above all, advertising associations and media agencies have done a fantastic job of raising awareness amongst advertisers.”
In addition, legislation shall be enforced in the near future. The publication of carbon footprint numbers for digital advertising is indeed likely to become a regulatory requirement.
“We have developed a solution for optimising the reduction of the carbon footprint of digital advertising,” Fabien Omont went on. “And the good news is that getting some good results is quite easy.”
Carbon emissions from digital advertising can very easily be cut in half
“The range of the impact of advertisers’ carbon footprint is very broad. The most virtuous advertisers will emit 55 grams of CO2 per thousand impressions,” explains Fabien, “the highest threshold, goes up to 4,782 grams.
However, Adform has noticed that the vast majority of publishers are well below these extremes, Fabien said.
‘If we tackle the top 10% of CO2 emitters, we will soon see a total reduction of 40–50% of carbon emissions due to digital advertising.’
In conclusion, the problem isn’t hopeless. Just by improving practices on the ground, one could achieve satisfactory results.
It’s worthy of note that, according to the World Economic Forum, “Studies estimate that digital technologies already contribute between 1.4% to 5.9% of global greenhouse gas emissions”.
Digital technology isn’t therefore responsible for the majority of our carbon footprint, far from that.
It is far less to blame than the usual suspects, namely transportation, the manufacturing industry and agriculture, as well as central heating.
It should also be noted that carbon emissions are the most significant cause of the pollution we are witnessing but its far from being the only one.
In any case, every effort counts. And those made by the digital industry are to be welcomed and encouraged.
Could Generative AI be a game-changer for photography and photographers? Photography has been around for…
‘Breaking down silos’ is certainly digital transformation’s most common phrase and myth. If you haven’t…
Let's look at a major marketing misconception today: the more market data you have, the…