How are agencies measuring the environmental impact of outdoor advertising?
As we explore the breadth and depth of out-of-home in this week’s Deep Dive, we ask agencies how they’re measuring the impact of their OOH activities.
How are agencies logging the impact of their outdoor work?
There has been more and more attention given this year to measuring the environmental impact of ad campaigns, particularly out-of-home work. Media owners, advertisers and agencies are now under more scrutiny than before to prove their messaging isn’t wasteful. So, we asked experts from Iris, Carat, Wunderman Thompson and more about how their agencies are keeping track.
How do you solve a problem like... measuring the environmental impact of OOH advertising?
Fiona Lloyd, global client and brand president, Carat
As part of our media decarbonization journey, we’ve developed a cross-channel media carbon calculator to measure the carbon footprint of our clients’ campaigns. OOH is included in this and is in use across the UK and France, with the intention to scale into other markets in 2023. Plus, we have established a dedicated squad with channel-specific and sustainability expertise tasked to map the OOH ecosystem accurately. So we have a tool, we have a dedicated team and we are collecting robust data from our media partners. This ensures we’re considering all aspects of OOH carbon mitigation, for example using 100% renewable energy, EV fleets and recycled and recyclable posters when building our measurement frameworks.
Matthew Conley, head of production, MKG
As an experiential marketing agency, MKG acknowledges our responsibility toward sustainable development while still showing up for clients in innovative ways. We’re currently partnering with the Trace by Isla calculator to measure our greenhouse gas emissions produced by events that encompass both direct and indirect emissions and exploring ways to reduce those numbers, such as staff travel reduction, repurposing materials and more plant-based approaches to catering. Within our traditional venues, there’s still a lack of environmentally friendly infrastructure – a large emitter of greenhouse gas – but we’re hopeful that client demand will start to transition these spaces to renewable energy. We’ve started with our NYC office, which is 100% renewable.
Sarah Parkes, chief sales and marketing officer, Talon
The OOH industry is the natural custodian of the outside world, and sustainable planning conversations – alongside energy consumption – are increasingly important. From 2023, at Talon we will be adopting the use of the IPA-accredited Carbon Calculator to measure the impact for each OOH campaign we plan and run. It will allow us to create benchmarks for carbon emissions and monitor the environmental impact of our campaigns. This awareness is already impacting how our campaigns manifest. For example, we ensure that 100% recycled and recyclable paper is used when booking traditional formats, which cuts carbon emissions by a third.
Trevor Nichol, production director and sustainability lead, Pixel Artworks
Working extensively in OOH, maximizing carbon reduction is a key component of our project management process. We conduct an environmental risk assessment, a reduction plan and measure the CO2e impact of every project. This data informs us and our clients where to focus improvement and highlights opportunities for further reductions. Operationally we are carbon neutral, our servers are powered by 100% renewable energy and we not only account for the impact of the business, we measure our personal footprints, offset them with Gold Standard programs and set targets towards Net Zero by 2030. We are all part of the steep journey required to achieve a sustainable future and we are 100% committed to collaborating with the industry to act now.
Aaron Shapiro, founder and chairman, Product
It’s fairly straightforward to determine the direct environmental impact of a given ad campaign, including OOH. It’s a math exercise, where one calculates all carbon emissions required for each step of the process, from ideation and production to display. But there’s an opportunity to look at any campaign from a broader sustainability perspective: does the message you are putting out, and the product you are selling, combine to result in a net positive contribution to society? This approach factors in not just the ad, but the entire brand and product ecosystem. All aspects of sustainability are then evaluated – not just environmental impact, but public health, economic justice, as well as diversity and inclusion.
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Ben Essen, global chief strategy officer, Iris
At Iris, we are focusing our efforts on the ‘iceberg’– the 208m metric tons of annual CO2e created by advertising-driven demand. We’re calculating the Advertised Emissions of the products we promote to identify where we can make the greatest reductions. Because switching a single high-carbon sale to a low-carbon one could offset an OOH site’s energy usage for several years. OOH media owners have a job to do in urgently transitioning their estate to Net Zero, but as an agency we need to address the area where we can make the greatest impact: in the demand we create.
Jo Weston, strategy director and sustainability lead, Wunderman Thompson
The climate emergency is a massive disruptor. And with disruption comes opportunity to rethink everything we do. Out-of-home media is fantastic at stopping us in our tracks and getting us to engage, but it shouldn’t cost the Earth. We’re an industry full of creative minds who, given half the chance, would be brimming with fabulous creative yet low-carbon OOH ideas. So why are we even still considering high-carbon formats?
At Wunderman Thompson we’re training everyone to think about this upstream in the creative process, so we can reduce the impact of media and production in our campaigns and help our clients and their consumers reduce theirs.
Thanks for reading this week’s debate. If you feel like joining in the conversation next year, give me a shout: firstname.lastname@example.org