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What is responsible media and why is it so important in today's climate?
October 7, 2022
By Emma Newman, CRO, EMEA, PubMatic
Against a background of increasing concerns about climate change, equality, and economic growth, the concept of ‘responsible media’ is one that the digital advertising industry cannot afford to ignore. Today, in order to ensure that digital advertising delivers value in a sustainable way, we need to consider the impact it has on brands, publishers, consumers and the environment.
Responsible media seeks to solve the social and environmental challenges associated with developing, producing and monetizing content. There are many factors that play a role in ensuring the media we consume and within which brands advertise are adhering to these principles and in doing so, build the supply chain of the future.
What is the role of technology?
To understand the importance of technology, we must first remember that advertising supports the distribution of content. Ensuring that content continues to be available free of charge and accessible to all is critical to the proper functioning of society. With this in mind, it’s clear to see that technology will play a vital role in the supply chain of the future.
One of the biggest challenges is that the digital advertising industry relies on supply chains that connect consumers with publishers, advertisers, agencies, demand-side platforms (DSPs), data platforms, supply-side platforms (SSPs) and more, meaning increasing amounts of energy is required. We’re simplifying matters by taking an infrastructure-driven approach by investing in our own networking equipment and hardware, ensuring that such is powered by renewable energy and setting high standards for sustainability.
Then comes transparency. Buyers need to know what content their ads are placed alongside and which consumers saw their ads. They also need to know who in the supply chain is charging what and importantly what value are they bringing. Publishers need to be certain of the quality of the ads shown within their content and ensure there is full transparency in the fee system within the supply chain. Meanwhile, the transferring of all the data required to achieve these levels of transparency needs to be efficient and as environmentally friendly as possible.
At PubMatic, for example, we own 100% of our infrastructure, giving us as much control as possible over our environmental impact ,compared to if we operated in public cloud environments. This approach has enabled us to use 100% renewable power in all data centers globally by choosing solar, wind, and hydro-driven power solutions. This is not something that is achieved overnight, it took several years and, in the near term, we pay more for energy. In the long-term, it gives us an advantage as we are not only at the forefront in reducing carbon emissions within the ecosystem but that we’ve done so in a way that aligns with our long term objectives.
Responsibility and accountability
We all have a responsibility to lean in and be prepared to work collaboratively to ensure sustainability is at the core of any decision we make with regards to the media we buy, sell, and consume. Sustainability is now a mainstream concern that cannot be overlooked by anyone and no-one should hold out for others to make decisions or put off making decisions themselves due to a lack of knowledge. Education has and will continue to play a vital role in getting us to where we need to be.
Compared to 12 months ago, there are significantly more companies with a real understanding of the impact media production and consumption has on the environment and society. These companies, collectively have the power to help the rest of the ecosystem understand how to measure responsibility and sustainability and continually drive improvement. This way everyone will improve together as we collectively learn how to lower the impact that advertising has on the environment through shared experience, success and perhaps, a few failures along the way.
It is going to be vital to link all case studies and other resources to build better business outcomes and to tell these stories in a clear and compelling way. This will ensure that the concept of responsibility is one that endures the test of time and continues to evolve and drive change for the better.
How will responsible media evolve?
While still a relatively nascent concept, it is important to remember that in order for any project to be successful there needs to be a clearly defined roadmap that is flexible enough to cater for changes in requirements along the way. That’s why we need to work towards building a responsible media supply framework that supports quality journalism and content creation that also encompasses sustainability, diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I) at all levels.
Brands and agencies need to dedicate media budgets to publishers and content creators that also share these values to improve the ecosystem and drive positive cultural influences. This will involve getting to know their suppliers more deeply. For example, in video advertising who are the producers, which actors are involved, who owns the media on which the ad is served, and how do we reach more diverse audiences with the most relevant representation in our ads?
From a publisher perspective, we’re used to seeing adaptation based on buyer demands and that will certainly play a role in the development of the responsible supply chain of the future, but there are also things publishers can do proactively to accelerate positive change. Firstly, get candid on climate - clear, effective, and open measurement starts with media owners understanding their own environmental footprint and being able to measure it. Secondly, transparency - in terms of ownership, readership, and content sourcing - will allow buyers to find the media that meets their needs and pay more for it.
Responsible media is all about enabling people to make responsible decisions based on relevant, accurate data. The focus on delivering sustainable and responsible choices is gaining momentum and will soon (as in the next 12 – 24 months) become a core requirement. Publishers, agencies, technology and data companies need to act now to ensure they meet brands’ increasing desire to invest their ad budgets in a responsible way.
We also need to consider the impact the next generation of talent and leaders can have today and provide them with the best platform to continue to improve responsibility and sustainability in media. Now is the time to ensure that the next generation within your organisation has the opportunity to ensure responsible decision making is a core factor in all media creation, distribution and buying. Foster cultures and environments where younger generations are empowered to get involved, speak up, and share ideas. The more that happens, the quicker we will see real change.