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Digital Transformation Brand Purpose Assembly

Assembly debuts Clean Media Lab to help clients decarbonize their media investments


By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

January 6, 2023 | 7 min read

The Stagwell-owned omnichannel media agency will launch a new media service designed to help brands achieve their sustainability goals.

Illustration of man cutting down carbon emissions with scissors

Assembly is taking on new commitments to cutting down the ad industry's carbon footprint / Adobe Stock

Global media agency Assembly is launching its new Clean Media Lab, which aims to help clients decarbonize their media investments. As a secondary benefit, it will also serve to advance the agency’s own commitment to sustainability, adding to the organization’s existing suite of impact-oriented initiatives.

It’s a well-timed announcement, as major players in advertising and media look to reduce the environmental impact of their investments amid growing scrutiny. While computational load-intensive industries like cryptocurrency trading have garnered blowback for their poor emissions record, the media and adtech ecosystems until recently had remained relatively unscathed by such criticism.

Now, the pressure is rising as data suggests that the sector has an outsized impact on CO2 emissions. Many processes within the digital advertising pipeline – from real-time bidding to identity management – demand great amounts of electricity from millions of servers. On average, a gram of carbon is produced per ad impression, according to proprietary research by Scope3, a company that provides supply chain emissions data.

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Under more pressure to reform, ad industry players are increasingly adopting operations changes and signing on to initiatives like Ad Net Zero, an industry program that aims to get the ad industry to net zero CO2 emissions.

It’s a call that Assembly is eager to answer. “We simply can no longer ignore the impact that media campaigns have on our planet,” said Gaby Sethi, global head of impact at Assembly, in a statement. “Advertising adds an extra 32% to the annual carbon footprint of every person and that’s in the UK alone. This isn’t just a one-off initiative for us – it’s how we need to think about campaigns from start to finish.”

Assembly’s new Clean Media Lab seeks to arm clients with new solutions to meet ambitious climate goals like achieving net zero emissions within their supply chains. As a project designed to evolve and adapt over time, the Lab will kick off its operations in Europe (soon to be expanded to other territories across the globe) by assessing existing media decarbonization initiatives and pinpointing key routes toward reducing the media ecosystem’s environmental impact. It will also launch its first product – a tool that Assembly calls a “media decarbonization minimizer.”

Over time, however, the Lab plans to introduce an entire suite of products to help dial back the ecosystem’s carbon footprint. These will include a tool to audit the carbon footprint of an organization’s entire media spend, a scorecard that evaluates potential publishing partners based on their own sustainability profile and a proprietary universal emissions metric that can be applied across all parts of an omnichannel campaign to provide an apples-to-apples view of the environmental impact of various activities.

“Over the last two years,” says James Townsend, global CEO of Assembly and Brand Performance Network, “we’ve been setting the stage with clients for our leadership in both sustainable media as well as diversity, equity and inclusion-focused media innovation, and now clients are looking to us to develop the technological innovation to make this possible.

“Many clients have net zero and other key sustainability targets that they’ve committed to their shareholders, their employees and their customers. Media is a key, and relatively untapped area, where clients can reduce their carbon footprint further.”

Assembly is launching the Clean Media Lab on the back of a strong sustainability- and purpose-driven track record. The agency has played a key role in Nike’s ongoing ‘Move to Zero’ campaign, helping the sportswear giant decarbonize its media operations as well as offset its carbon emissions via solar energy projects.

Plus, to underscore its efforts, Assembly is evaluating its own sustainability profile with more scrutiny. This year, it plans to measure its own carbon footprint and publish an emissions reduction plan. The agency has also committed to joining Ad Net Zero. In particular, plans to prioritize ‘Action #3’ – part of the initiative’s five-step action plan – which focuses on reducing CO2 emissions in media buying and planning. Furthermore, the agency says it’s applying for B Corp certification through B Lab, which would cement its reputation as a positive changemaker in the ad industry.

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The commitment is representative of a larger network-wide goal at Stagwell to “transform media solutions through impactful technology.” The network plans to unveil a handful of additional new programs and products that reflect this ethos at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada this week.

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