Here's How to Reduce the Carbon Cost of Your Digital Campaigns | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

Here's How to Reduce the Carbon Cost of Your Digital Campaigns


The holidays are coming. And you know what that means: lots of presents, festive drinks, family fights over the dinner table, and erm, the amount of greenhouse (GHG) emissions going up.

That's right, the last one may not have featured on your last happy holidays card, but without wanting to sound like the Grinch, the festive period does come up at a cost. And we don't just mean to your wallets – the planet too.

After all, the "most wonderful time of the year" is when we do everything to excess. From eating and drinking to giving and receiving, these seasonal increases in our level of consumption also has a greater impact on the environment.

Online ads are also a huge contributor to this festive hike in emissions. It's not surprising. As the amount of people online looking for festive bargains goes up, along with the number ads from brands trying to grab consumers' hard-won attention during the so-called "Golden Quarter." And so does digital advertising's carbon footprint.

And by a lot. Around 25 percent in the U.S. alone, in fact, according to research conducted by IMPACT+.

So, how can digital advertisers stay off the naughty list and reduce the carbon emissions generated by their holiday ads without sacrificing performance? Well, here are our suggestions:

1. Reduce the weight of your holiday creative
One of the biggest factors that affect the carbon footprint of a digital ad is the weight of the creative asset. And during the holidays, brands certainly Santa-size their ads. The festive fight between brands every Yuletide season means every year advertisers try to out-do their rivals in the battle for holiday shoppers' attention.

These range from the value-led messages aimed at price-conscious Black Friday consumers looking to nab a few late deals to the rich, beautiful holiday campaigns designed to squeeze as much emotion from viewers as humanly possible.

How can you keep using these rich storytelling assets, while also reducing your impact? Well, cutting the length of the video can help. Every second you take off reduces emissions.

In fact, there was many ways to minimise the weight of the creative asset. For example, videos can be more carbon-intensive than static images, but simple techniques, like video compression and limiting the video definition to a reasonable quality depending on the size of the screen you are showing the ad on can have a real impact.

Other things that can help include using compressed images, switching to less carbon-intensive image formats like WebP, and cutting down excessive animations and complex visuals.

But this shouldn't be just for the holidays. By continuously A/B testing the carbon intensity of your creative assets, and your landing pages, which can be 100 times more carbon-intensive than one ad impression, you can cut emissions significantly in the long-term.

2. Adapt your ad delivery to minimise emissions
Understanding the context in which your audience engages with your digital ads – including the devices they're and how they're connected – can also help you drastically reduce the carbon footprint of your festive campaigns.

For example, optimising your festive campaigns to prioritize smartphone delivery to Wi-Fi users, who generally consume less energy when loading and interacting with digital ads, can really have an impact.

You can also plan your campaign to deliver ads during off-peak hours and days, when energy supply is less carbon intensive.

3. Think about what's in your ad tech stockings
The journey of an ad campaign has become far from straightforward thanks to the proliferation of third parties.

The depth, complexity and, well, let's face it, inefficiency of the programmatic ecosystem means the energy (and therefore carbon) needed to serve just a single ad impression has mushroomed in recent years.

Multiply that by the trillions of estimated auctions taking place every single day across the vast length and breadth of the programmatic landscape, and you have some idea of the impact that has on the planet.

So, by buying directly where you can and streamlining supply as much as possible, advertisers can go a long way towards reducing the carbon cost of their holiday campaigns.

4. Reduce waste
There's always a lot of waste during the holidays – and I'm not just talking about the pair of socks your mom got you that you don't want. Any ad that doesn't reach its intended target generates unnecessary carbon emissions. So, like any campaign, reducing waste will not only maximise your media spend, but also drive down your environmental impact.

Quality beats quantity, so focus on higher conversation rates rather than the higher reach and volumes. That includes staying clear of websites with low viewability rates and Made for Advertising (MFA) inventory. You can also reduce waste by limiting exposure frequency.

Have a Green(er) Holiday Season

Adopting these suggestions could help to reduce your campaign emissions over the festive period by as much as 80 percent, without any impact on performance, according to IMPACT+. But if we are going to create a more positive and sustainable digital ad ecosystem, as an industry we need to be focused on our long-term impact, and not just for the holidays.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Audrey Danthony is co-founder and chief product officer of IMPACT+.