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Brand Strategy Open Mic Sustainability

Tackling ad waste: How 2024 is all about quality over quantity

The Digital Voice™


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January 12, 2024 | 7 min read

In 2024, reducing ad waste should be the top priority for advertisers, says user-first ad marketplace, Picnic. Here's why.

Picnic staff ready to talk about reducing ad waste

Across the industry, the narrative in 2023 increasingly turned towards ad waste: what is it, how is it measured, and ultimately, how can we reduce it? With research telling us that over two-fifths (41%) of overall ad spend goes to waste, this heightened focus is hardly surprising.

User-first ad marketplace Picnic identifies reduction in ad waste as the number one priority for advertisers in 2024. This will need to take the form of both more efficient, higher-quality solutions and more sustainable advertising practices.

Here, Picnic's founder Matthew Goldhill, VP of product Jamie Hesketh, product manager Nick Evans and client success manager Holly McCann, share their top areas of focus for marketers seeking to achieve this goal in the year to come.


Matthew Goldhill: “In 2024, the focus will be on quality media that prioritizes the user’s experience.”

Media planners must have the user at the forefront of their decisions when setting out their upcoming marketing activities. Old habits die hard, but annoying or intrusive digital ad experiences have been shown to create huge wastage in ad spend, by actively putting off the very consumers they hoped to win over.

Addressing industry practices that create poor user experiences - such as slow-loading, high ad density sites - and fostering a deliberate move away from the all-too-familiar intrusive ad formats we’ve become accustomed to - is the key to a higher-quality output and more efficient use of ad dollars.

However, this must be closely accompanied by meaningful and accurate campaign measurement to avoid misleading vanity metrics that encourage the production of ads with poor user experiences.


Nick Evans: “Meaningful measurement will be achieved by recognizing the nuances and distinctions between media attention vs creative attention, and the need for both.”

Placing creatives on high-quality placements across premium media provides the best opportunity to capture user attention. Eye-tracking data will remain a key part of measuring creative effectiveness, but we also need to look at both historical domain attention, and ad-placement-level attention data, when considering the role that media quality plays in generating meaningful attention.

Marketers need to be on board with using multiple data sources to determine consumer attention rates, and in turn, inform future media buying, drive creative development and, ultimately, cut ad wastage on an ongoing basis.

2024 is not about the debate of creative attention vs media attention - it’s about using both effectively together to inform campaign outcomes.


Holly McCann: “Expect a shift in 2024 from exploring and adapting to new AI tools, to utilizing them meaningfully - especially with regard to creative solutions."

When it comes to creativity, the focus will be on harmonizing new AI tools with human intuition to craft the most impactful, yet user friendly ad creatives possible.

Predictive technology will provide more advanced and granular insights for factors such as creative attention, helping us to make more informed and bespoke creative decisions.

A media-first approach to creativity will also be key, particularly with regards to video which will finally take center stage as we explore innovative ways to make this channel more effective, fitting seamlessly across different digital environments for the best possible user experience.


Jamie Hesketh: “The focus will remain on carbon compensation in the year to come, but it's not a silver bullet. We need to improve the way in which media quality and effectiveness is measured at source. That, in turn, will lead to a more efficient media ecosystem.”

At Picnic we already carbon compensate for 100% of all media campaign delivery as standard, and have been doing so since 2021. While carbon compensation is better than nothing, it is not the only answer and could arguably be brushing the real problem under the carpet.

Moving forward, we need to focus on reducing waste in media buying, and developing more effective tools for measuring value. Even going back to basics and intuition - for example knowing that buying media in ad dense environments is wasteful and generates less attention, even if it delivers high viewability.

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Focusing on this will create a cleaner and more efficient media ecosystem, and benefit advertisers at the same time.

As we seek more industry-wide carbon standards, the industry will remain substantially influenced by frameworks such as Scope3, as they continue to work hard on setting out advertising guidelines. For instance, their latest report provides an up-to-date overview of emissions in digital advertising, how the industry’s carbon footprint is evolving, and how carbon output differs across the globe.

In summary, 2024 will be the year of “quality over quantity”, with marketers de-prioritizing quantity and vanity metrics, and instead focusing on higher-quality, less intrusive creative advertising, for more efficient ad spend and tangibly reduced emissions

Brand Strategy Open Mic Sustainability

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