Modern Marketing Future of Media Sustainability

Future of Media: What's the carbon cost of media? More gambling regulations loom


By John McCarthy | Media editor

November 11, 2021 | 7 min read

Calculating carbon costs

Adland knows that sustainability is no longer a CSR add-on, it’s a moral imperative and business essential. This means measuring, reducing, and offsetting carbon footprints as a means of going greener, which means committing to net-zero carbon (explainer here).


But it is complicated. All those digital ads, delivered via targeting wizardry, are actually very energy-intensive, all just to be in with a shout of sending the right creative to the right audiences in the right way at the lowest prices. Until now, marketers have done so with little care or thought for how much of your phone’s battery gets slurped up. Better keep that charger close.

One study claims that advertising added an extra 28% to the annual carbon footprint of every single person in the UK in 2019. And that's not exactly consensual consumption, is it? (Yes ads are great and make great content accessible, I know. But there's a discussion to be had here.)

This is a whole lot of work just to, y’know, retarget someone with some trainers they’ve already bought. WPP reckons 55% of its carbon footprint comes merely from the media it is placing ads on. There's no easy or immediate path to reducing that shy of cutting waste ads and muscling media owners into cleaner practices. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

UK agencies and industry bodies have teamed up to build media carbon calculators that can guestimate the carbon output of a campaign by channel. The aspiration is to plug in the media owners to take out the guesswork. But until that happens, advertisers will struggle to buy cleaner media and pressure the laggards. I had some frank discussions with marketers about these vital measurement tools these last few weeks. At the moment these tools are inspiring vital conversations with clients – but realistically media buyers needed carbon costs built into their dashboards yesterday.

More here.

Gamble ramble

There’s more gambling regulation coming to the UK, more rules detailing what can and cannot be said. Those most vulnerable to gambling addiction are naturally the most valuable customers to said companies. Whales, they're sometimes called. For these people, huge swathes of media and the internet are just plastered with temptation. They're basically unusable. And that's a problem.

Gamblers should be able to advertise but we must also have empathy for those vulnerable to the almost omnipresent placements. One suggested regulation is a potential ban on football shirt sponsorship which has a few stakeholders panicking.

Our analysis says some of these rule changes will “force gambling operators into those slightly peripheral forms of advertising and away from pure advertising”.

We’re seeing a lot more bookie-funded branded content on the TV. Paddy Power’s looking at comedy and Ladbrokes has masterminded a grudgingly brilliant music sponsorship strategy as a backdoor into sports. It's never been truer that gambling marketers need to be on the ball to stick to the rules.

This one from Hannah Bowler raises all sorts of questions.

Meta win

In his new weekly column, Sam Bradley explored the week’s big media account wins. Spark Foundry taking on Meta was an eye-opener.

It will be handling around $750m in media buying to craft Zuckerberg’s dream while navigating the thick cloud of dissent around the brand. Visualizing the metaverse might be one of the hardest creative tasks out there – I wonder if the seed of the metaverse will be planted on TV, the tried and trusted medium that actually exists right now?

More here.

Other Stuff

Read the last Future of Media briefing.

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