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Media Measurement Agencies ESG

Omnicom is measuring the ethical impact of media buys for clients

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By Sam Bradley, Journalist

August 2, 2023 | 7 min read

A calculator was developed for the UK government to score media owners on their environmental and social impact. Now it’s available to all Omnicom Media Group clients.

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OMG’s new measurement tool scores media owners on their social and envionmental footprint / Unsplash

A measurement tool that scores media owners on various environmental, social and governance criteria (ESG) developed for the British government by Omnicom Media Group (OMG) has now been made available to private sector clients.

“ESG is an important issue to every organization. We need to make sure we’re driving the right conversations with our clients and the industry,” Bhavin Balvantrai, chief market analyst at OMG UK, tells The Drum.

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The tool, OMG Impact, measures media owners on their environmental, social and governance practices as well as the social impact of media investments and environmental consequences of emissions associated with them. Media owners are then given a score based on 12 specific categories which OMG clients can use in their media buying decisions.

Crucially, the score is also shared with the media owner in the hope they will use it as a base to improve through internal reform.

Used in conjunction with OMG’s climate calculator, Balvantrai says the tool will help provide “accountability” for media investment. “It’s much broader than just climate,” he adds.

While a carbon calculator can help organizations in their efforts to decarbonize the media supply chain, it’s something of a blunt tool when used to measure the broader impact of media purchases. He says Impact “tracks your media spend across your supply chain and sees what the wider societal environmental impacts of that are.”

Principally, he says the goal is to provide CMOs and marketers with heavyweight evidence of the impact of media investments. “For many of our private sector clients, media and marketing is like their second or third biggest line item on their P&L. And at the moment, there’s very little visibility in terms of how that supply chain stacks up in terms of ESG. So we’re trying to bring some visibility to that space.

“If you’re a CMO sat around the boardroom table, your head of manufacturing or head of purchasing will have answers about [the impact] of their supply chain. It doesn’t quite exist in the same shape or form across the marketing supply chain,” he adds. And by strengthening the hands of marketers, clients will have an easier time arguing for larger media budgets – in time strengthening OMG, too.

OMG, which handles media buying and planning for the UK government through its subsidiary OmniGov, spent eight months developing the tool. In April, it began using it within the Government Communication Service (GCS) and Crown Commercial Service (CCS) to establish practical benchmarks. From this week, Impact will be rolled out across every other government department – and be made available to private sector clients. Impact will also be integrated into Omni, Omnicom’s ‘operating system’.

“Measuring the ethics of the platforms they invest in, and then benchmarking them against our social value framework, will ensure the right investments are being made. It allows us collectively to minimize risk relating to impacts on society and the environment, and ensures media spend through our framework agreement is accountable to all stakeholders,” Stephanie Parry of the Crown Commercial Service said in a statement.

Neither OMG nor the government are collecting data about the governance or social impact of specific media owners, Balvantrai notes. Instead, OMG turned to Legacy Media, a media measurement firm specializing in ESG data, to create a dataset that would apply to both the private and public sectors.

That dataset – an index of historical media investment, which scores media owners across categories such as energy, climate change, diversity and labor rights – is refreshed monthly to stay up to date. Media owners are scored out of 100 – OMG says the average performance across the UK industry is 56.4.

“We wanted to make sure we found the right data set,” he says. The approach is usually used by banks and hedge funds to analyze private firms, says Balvantrai, but OMG worked to adapt it to include media owners – such as minority ethnic-focused titles, or local newspapers – that would be of particular interest to media buyers in government and at private companies.

“A lot of the time we spent building our approach was in filling the gaps of that dataset,” he says. Because public service messaging might need to target audiences that don’t consume mainstream media – people who speak a language other than English as their first tongue, for example – the government’s media buying strategy particularly values smaller titles that service those communities.

Other ways of measuring ESG impact might downgrade those outlets, Balvantrai says, because they are smaller and often less efficient in environmental terms than large titles.

By providing them with an ESG score, the tool evens the playing field a little. “We’re making sure minority-owned media owners get a score. Suddenly, they’ll have that as an asset. They can use that score to raise financing or for their own disclosure agreements,” he notes.

The tool will roll out across the OMG network from today (August 2).

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