Have you ever wondered what is the ecological impact of a digital advertising campaign? To find out – and let it be known – the fifty-five consulting firm has released the “calculator”. Result: 71 tonnes of greenhouse gases (CO2) are emitted by a classic digital campaign, based on video advertisingsupplemented by paid referencing on search engines (from paid-search), sponsored posts on social networks (social paid) and a display in display or programmatic display. That is the equivalent, for one person, of 35 round trips by air from Paris to New York… or the carbon footprint of around 7 French people per year, for a single campaign. Staggering?
“Digital is responsible for around 3.5% of global CO2 emissions, growing at 6% per year. That’s more than civil aviation! We can no longer afford to continue this worrying trend, while global warming is at work”slice Ludovic Moulard, Head of delivery management within fifty-five and member of the Shift Project – think tank which works in favor of an economy freed from the carbon constraint.
What is the carbon cost of a digital campaign?
With the conviction that we can only reduce what we measure or, in other words, that data is a key factor of transformation, the fifty-five firm therefore publishes, on March 7, 2022, the first public study to measure the carbon footprint of the main advertising channels, accompanied by the associated methodology. A project that took over a year to complete. In this first iteration in open sourceintended for brands, only the impact of digital channels is studied and organic channels and CRM are also excluded.
To estimate the environmental impact of a “typical” digital advertising device, fifty-five took into account the carbon emissions linked to the creative production – management and travel, filming, post-production, offices – and carbon emissions related to the advertising system as such: diffusion (depending on network and data center) and viewing content digital (depending on the device), as well as audience targeting (data storage and audience calculation).
The firm relied “on the state of the art of carbon footprint measurement”explains Ludovic Moulard, namely, in particular, “the carbon balance method” from ADEME : “Starting from this method, we combine activity data, such as the consumption of a volume of data for download, with emission factors, to obtain kilograms of CO2 equivalent”, specifies the Head of delivery management. Thus, a business indicator – number of km/passenger; kWh; data volume – was multiplied at the average emission rate of this business indicator. It shows that a typical shoot represents 35 tons of “equivalent” CO2, on a par with broadcasting (36 tons). It was “A suprise” for Pierre Harand, Partner of fifty-five, who expected the broadcast to have a stronger impact. Targeting is equivalent to 100 kilos of CO2 emitted.
How to reduce the environmental impact of an advertisement?
“Carbon offset promises are not a solution to the problem, shares Pierre Harand. Planting trees, for example, to offset the use of fossil fuels, is not tenable even though we are deforesting to fuel our way of life. We have to change our behavior.” To improve the carbon footprint of digital advertising, fifty-five therefore supports its study with realistic solutions to apply. “With these good practices, the reduction of CO2 is significant, says Pierre Harand. Impact can be halved, without compromising ad performance.”
Brands concerned about their environmental impact are therefore invited to favor “local” filming (to limit air travel and encourage the rental of equipment on site), to make more use of 3D rather than shooting and, even, to avoid filming by preferring recycling of films and/or existing shots. Second set of tips: lighten renderings of video, the “heaviest” advertising format. It is therefore recommended to favor shorter videos and lower resolutions to reduce the weight.
Brands also need to rethink their targeting. fifty-five recalls the basics: it is necessary to target the most qualified audiences, to reduce unnecessary printing that generates emissions. With this in mind, the firm is proposing a new indicator, the “gCO2PM”the carbon cost 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 dissemination, the idea could be touse the Wifi connection more than the mobile networkwhich emits six times more CO2. “In content platforms like YouTube, one of the targeting criteria is Wifi. Spending half of your targeting on Wifi allows you to drastically reduce your carbon bill”, says Pierre Harand. Finally, last suggestion of fifty-five: the reduction in the number of stakeholders in programmatic auctions – because the more intermediaries and competitors there are, the more auction calculations and therefore emissions.“There is still a huge lack of data on the carbon impact of our activities. We have been able to establish orders of magnitude and hope that there will be many contributions from firms or brands to refine the study and get the industry moving. “, concludes Pierre Harand. To be continued, then!