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Marketing and Comms
Sustainability in Advertising:
How Marketers Can Waste Less and Grow More

It’s all about increasing the efficiency of your assets — rather than just adding more stuff to a stack to feel like you are keeping pace. When it comes to both effectiveness and sustainability, less is more.

Sustainability in marketing is, almost ironically, an evergreen topic. Every brand, agency and marketer should be thinking about the environment and how our industry is impacting it.

Recent Kantar research shows that 90 percent of marketers believe sustainability agendas must be more ambitious, with a further 94 percent saying marketers have to act more bravely and experiment to drive transformative change.

But thinking is one thing. Doing is another thing entirely.

Roughly 40 percent of marketers are still taking their first steps towards developing more sustainable marketing practices. And you can understand why — these are challenging times; it’s easy for sustainability to slip down the priority list.

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But the reality remains that marketers wholeheartedly want to be as effective as possible. They want to achieve zero-waste budgets. But zero waste must refer to environmental waste as much as financial waste.

The bottom line

The media landscape has fragmented — audiences now exist across its many glimmering shards, dynamically shifting from channel to channel throughout the day. Having more channels means there are more chances to deliver your message, but it also increases the risk of your message completely missing its intended target.

When ads fail to land, they don’t just waste the budget. Unnoticed digital ads saturate the landscape — consuming valuable resources, draining server capacity and increasing the size of a business's carbon footprint.

The CO2 emissions from online advertising alone account for a whopping 10 percent of the internet’s total infrastructure emissions. Multiply that waste by factoring in all the communications a typical business creates beyond advertising, and it’s clear that a major problem exists.

But the effects of the media landscape’s growing complexity are twofold. First, you have a proliferation of channels; then, you have the explosion of marketing tools and solutions that help brands reach consumers across the rapidly evolving ecosystem.

Now, brand marketers are grappling with the challenge of navigating an array of disparate systems. On average, they juggle six different platforms — most of which lack integration and compatibility. This fragmentation not only impedes efficiency but also hampers effective waste-management strategies. And as more platforms emerge, levels of waste are only set to increase.

More complexity. More competition. More pressure. More emissions. More wastage.

So, how can brands effectively become more sustainable while keeping pace with an evolving media landscape?

Out of sight, but not out of mind

Every year, the digital waste of unseen ads emit as much carbon as the global aviation industry. This huge number shows how important it is to fix the damage that digital advertising is doing to the environment. With this knowledge, brands and marketers have a responsibility to tackle this problem head on.

But to close the gap, our industry needs to proactively work together.

Tech is changing fast; and concurrently, environmental concerns are growing. Developing collective, sustainable advertising practices is the only way to significantly curtail the impact of digital advertising on the environment.

Businesses have multiple partners, stakeholders, agencies, markets, departments. They can evolve or be acquired. The list goes on and on. And consequently, many organizations are over-encumbered with systems and processes that are essentially duplicates.

It’s all about increasing the efficiency of the assets you have — rather than just adding more stuff to a stack to feel like you are keeping pace. When it comes to both effectiveness and sustainability, less is more.

In fact, our recent commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting revealed that effective implementation of this approach within a company’s marketing ecosystem leads to positive outcomes. When tools are used to their maximum efficiency, 59 percent of respondents reported increased company revenue; and 48 percent reported a more efficient use of their time.

Brands should focus on holistic strategies that bring together content, ads and audiences seamlessly. Establishing connections between these elements serves to minimize wastage and enhance overall campaign effectiveness. This strategic approach not only benefits the environment but also streamlines efforts and amplifies returns on investment for marketers.

Sustainability may feel like an evergreen topic. But we are up against the clock. The planet depends on the choices businesses make together — which is why brands must ensure their technology makes marketing work for them, their consumers and the environment.