Start building sustainability into media plans

Start building sustainability into media plans
Opinion: Strategy Leaders

Now is the time for change, urges Nina Franck.


Did you know that the advertising industry has a larger carbon footprint than the airline industry?

With the climate crisis being front and centre and the Government ignoring the urgency by paying lip service and offering half-baked initiatives such as a partial ban of single use plastic, it is more urgent than ever that individuals and brands step-up and make a change, within their means. 

Everyone can do their part. And even if it is imperfect, a step or several steps in the right direction are better in a collective than stagnation or ignorance. 

There can be pressure that unless we do everything perfect in terms of sustainability, we are just hypocrites. But do not let that thought derail you from what is important.

Acknowledging the need for change and starting to act now is better than perfection. Wanting perfection leads to paralysis. 

Remember, there are tools and partners in the market that help brands make change also on their media plans. 

Just do it

Yes, a company should be implementing sustainability throughout their structures and processes. But breaking up existing infrastructures is certainly no easy task. So again, instead of waiting for someone at your organisation to take the lead, every department can be proactive and start to make changes in their own ways. 

What’s important is to be honest with yourself and your customers. Greenwashing helps no one. Not the brand in the long run and certainly not the planet. But knowing where you are now and where you have to get to, by outlining the steps needed to get there, is certainly the way to go.

No one is able to change overnight. So make a start, share and talk internally about your approach and plan actionable steps.

Use tools and choose the right partners

Agencies have started to offer carbon emission offsetting by working with partners such as MyClimate.

The organisation works with climate calculators and helps clients to reach the longer-term aim of reducing emissions rather than just offsetting.

‘Think about what you’re funding’: takeaways from the Future of Sustainability webinar

Creating awareness around how many emissions my own media plan creates is a crucial step in understanding the impact of my campaigns. Knowing where these emissions are created and to what extent, helps me to start making informed decisions about reducing these in the long-run. 

Looking at digital media for example, a lot of digital media, especially programmatic, is never seen by a human. Understanding where this waste lies and how to limit accordingly is not only good for reduced emissions but also good for the media plan’s efficiency and effectiveness. Focus on what is effective to then also bring down costs. 

Sustainability is not just about environmental protection but also about people

Working with platforms that are known to spread misinformation and do little to nothing to stop this, is also supporting a negative spiral of conspiracy theories such as climate crisis denial. 

Think about the partners you work with and ultimately fund in their practices.

The Conscious Advertising Network works with our industry to tackle the negative impacts of advertising and harmful content. It can help set-up manifestos to implement positive change within your company — from anti ad-fraud to diversity, hate speech, disinformation, informed consent, children’s wellbeing and sustainability. 

Good-Loop meanwhile helps advertisers to be more sustainable by offering viewers a choice of ads that will unlock a free donation funded by the advertiser (their ads are called “Watch to Donate”, “Engage to Donate” or “This Ad Does Good”).

Furthermore, Good-Loop lets you track the carbon emissions of your digital media plan in a dashboard that in turn allows you again to reduce and offset emissions with their “Green Ad Tag”. 

However, you still have to be brave and make tough decisions to take the worst offenders off your media plan. 

Nina Franck is an independent comms and media planner

Strategy Leaders: The Media Leader‘s weekly bulletin with thought leadership, news and analysis dedicated to excellence in commercial media strategy.
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