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Guy Jones

Campaign Co2 emissions: How we reduced them by over 60%

At The GoodNet we often talk about delivering our customers Good Outcomes, which means increasing their campaign performance whilst reducing its impact on the planet. This is rooted in the idea that sustainability shouldn’t be a trade-off; that it’s possible for marketing spend to fulfil a brand’s objectives, whilst also doing good in the world.

For us, doing good is ultimately rooted in the idea that ad spend can influence consumer behaviour for the better. However, we’re also extremely mindful of the direct Co2 impact that digital advertising has, and we are strong champions of the drive to decarbonize.

To that end, every campaign The GoodNet runs is carbon neutral, (and has been since we began working with our carbon measurement partner, Scope3, in late summer 2022). Clients don’t need to opt in, it’s simply baked into the DNA of how we operate.

Part of this carbon neutrality is about removing campaign emissions in a responsible way through Gold Standard projects. However, the more important part is in the efforts we make to reduce the Co2 emissions of our network, and this is an area where we have made fantastic progress.

A few numbers… since August we have reduced our gCo2PM (grams of carbon per thousand ad impressions) by over 60%. In fact, our network’s gCo2PM is 50% lower than the UK market average. In practical terms that means that in Q1 alone we saved over 50 tonnes of Co2, equivalent to the annual emissions of six family homes. This flies in the face of an assumption sometimes made that mid to long tail publishers are worse from a carbon perspective. This can certainly be true, but is certainly not always the case.

We achieved these reductions in a few different ways. Firstly, we used the data to make product level decisions about which publishers to include in our network and removing those who didn’t meet our standard. Secondly, on every campaign we continually optimise mid-flight towards the highest possible performance and lowest gCo2PM. For example, on a recent campaign for an insurance company, emissions dropped from 30% under the market average at the start of the month to 80% lower by the end.

But this is a nuanced subject as well. There are publishers within our network whose emissions are higher than average, but whose content we think is incredibly valuable in inspiring and educating people to live more sustainable lives. In these cases, the public service and greater good of the content outweighs the Co2PM, and we look to work with them to improve their ad stacks for the future. Conversely, we don’t believe that a publisher with a low gCo2PM whose content actively undermines or works against a sustainability agenda, can ever be considered ‘green media’.

We’re pleased with the progress we’ve made so far, but realise there is still a long way to go. In 2023 we’ll continue to reduce the average emissions of our network, as well as evolving our portfolio of carbon removal partners.

Influencing consumer behaviour is the ad industry’s climate responsibility

I’m writing this on a day when the temperature in London will nudge over 40°c, when the news is full stories of wildfires, droughts and collapsing glaciers, and the Secretary General of the United Nations has warned that humanity faces ‘collective suicide’. In the face of such tangible signs of climate crisis it’s more important than ever that every industry, media included, thinks deeply about the ways in which they contribute to this situation and how they can take action.

There’s no doubt that the advertising industry is taking steps in the right direction. Agencies and publishers are creating new sustainability-focused roles, the Green Claims Code aims to eradicate misleading environmental claims, and GroupM’s new Global Decarbonisation Framework appears to be both far-reaching and diligent. There are many knowledgeable and engaged people within media who are genuinely working to make things better. However, there is also a danger of this being treated as an ‘industry problem’, much like viewability or brand safety; as something to be measured, fixed and managed on a campaign-by-campaign basis.

Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that topics such as viewability are unimportant. Clients should of course receive value for money. But sustainability is a problem with sweeping real-world effects. The price of getting it wrong is not merely a drop in campaign performance; it’s more carbon in the atmosphere, more plastic in the oceans, more waste into landfill. And because the stakes are so high it requires us to think broadly and holistically about the effect our industry has.

Much of the work being done at present is focused on carbon calculators of various stripes, which measure the emissions created by advertising campaigns themselves. This is, of course, critical (every campaign run with The GoodNet is carbon neutral; independently measured and compensated in partnership with Scope3). Without such measurement it’s impossible to discern the ways in which emissions from advertising can be reduced and offset. It’s important that such measurement is standardised across media owners and channels, but in general carbon calculation is an important step in dealing with advertising’s Scope 3 emissions (those generated indirectly by the supply chain, rather than directly by the advertiser, agency or publisher themselves).

But there is real risk that if our industry focuses on carbon calculation, to the exclusion of all else, it ends up in a place where sustainability can be ‘ticked off’, whilst the bigger picture is missed. If our industry is serious about making a practical, substantial contribution to the challenges facing this planet we need to think about the ways in which we influence people’s behaviour at mass scale towards more sustainable modes of living. You may well have seen the estimate from Purpose Disruptors that advertising adds 28% to the carbon footprint of every person in the UK. But it’s worth noting that this number is rooted in the effect advertising has on purchase behaviour, rather than energy costs of ad campaigns alone. This shows the huge influence our industry has on people’s behaviour, and the opportunity it has to change that behaviour for the better.

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Some of this is about media choice. Now, I understand that advertisers are reluctant to weigh in on the editorial positioning of media owners. But in truth they already do, at the extremes. The whole idea behind Stop Funding Hate is that a brand’s ad dollars shouldn’t fund digital outlets that spread hatred and misinformation. We believe that there is a higher bar to aspire to here; where brands can look to achieve their campaign outcomes whilst investing into media that genuinely encourages and inspires people to make positive changes in their day to day lives.

The alternative is dispiriting: a scenario in which a platform could be included on ‘green’ plans because they are offsetting campaign emissions to make their media ‘net zero’, and all the while publishing content that exhorts people to carry on as usual.

The truth is that advertising is uniquely placed to influence consumer behaviour: directly through the products that brands inspire us to buy, and indirectly through the content that is funded by those ad dollars. And the good news is that if our industry can influence people’s behaviour, that means we can influence it for the better.

Measuring and manging the carbon emissions of ad campaigns is a critically important, and it’s a topic that deserves all the time, attention and airtime it’s getting. But advertising can make a significant, practical, and positive difference to our planet and its population in ways that go far beyond that. It’s a route for brands to promote more ethical product options, from sustainably produced food or fashion to green investment portfolios. It’s a means of funding publishers whose content inspires and educates people to live more sustainably. It could be amongst the most powerful tools in existence for changing behaviour in the right direction.

The risk is that our carbon calculators let us tick that sustainability box whilst missing the bigger opportunity to play a vital role in helping drive change for the benefit of both people and planet.

The GoodNet Partners With SeenThis to Increase Performance & Avoid Carbon Emissions

The GoodNet has partnered withSeenThis to enhance the video and display advertising offering to our advertisers. SeenThis’ adaptive streaming technology uses lower data transfer on ad campaigns than legacy technology, avoiding carbon footprint for advertisers for running the same ad. 

The GoodNet will adopt SeenThis streaming technology to deliver display advertising, minimising sending uncalled-for data, and achieving faster load times. SeenThis provides a unique combination that not only creates a better user experience but also improves outcomes for brands and empowers them in their sustainability efforts to avoid CO2 emissions caused by digital advertising.

Oliver Deane, co-founder, The GoodNet, shares “SeenThis offers a better way to deliver advertising creatives. Their streaming technology does something that has previously not been possible: deliver high-quality creative with lightning-fast load-times while using less data in the process. We are excited to provide this upgrade for our advertisers and our audiences.”

The GoodNet enables brands to reach an audience of 12.7 million ethical consumers who are receptive to messages and products that drive the wellbeing of people and the planet. Brands using The GoodNet are directly funding publishers whose content inspires and educates people to live greener, healthier, and more socially positive lives, while achieving their campaign goals.

Gareth Holmes, VP of EMEA & APAC, says “The GoodNet is a leader in sustainable media and advertising, and is a perfect partner for SeenThis. Not only can advertisers reach a valuable audience across quality content, with our partnership, they can also deliver more sustainable, high-performing content.”