Concerns about environmental sustainability have become a global priority in various sectors, and CTV is no exception. With the investigation into the impact of our carbon footprint on the environment, there has been a widespread push to reconsider and improve the sustainability of work processes worldwide.
According to a Sharethrough study, digital media advertising falls into category 3, making it the most challenging to measure in terms of facility installations or vehicle use. This is a consequence of servers, data processing, and transmission through the programmatic supply chain.
While many may believe that the carbon footprint of the advertising industry is almost nonexistent, the amount of energy required for this operation generates CO2 emissions.
Programmatic Advertising: What is its impact on the environment?
Did you know that 1 million video ad impressions emit a ton of CO₂, equivalent to a round trip from Madrid to Iceland? Considering the number of programmatic transactions performed daily, the carbon footprint of the advertising sector is considerable.
A new report from Attention x Sustainability, The Benefits of a Smaller Carbon Footprint in Media, conducted by MAGNA's Media Trials with Oracle, delved deeper to explore the relationship between key metrics and carbon emissions, using Oracle's Moat scoring system. This system analyzes multiple dimensions of performance and engagement, such as viewability time, viewability rate, screen space, and various interactions, among other signals, as a composite index of media quality and, as we learned, lower carbon emissions.
The study analyzed predictive eye tracking to assess view time, viewability rate, and screen space to index media quality and carbon emissions.
Programmatic advertising generates 215,000 metric tons of carbon emissions monthly in the USA, Germany, Great Britain, France, and Australia. These emissions are equivalent to 24 million gallons of gasoline per month.
The longer the view time, the lower the carbon emission per impression.
- Ads that were in view for 10 seconds generated 64% less CO2 than those viewed for five seconds. This means that an ad viewed for double the time produces two-thirds fewer emissions.
The industry can achieve a 6% reduction in carbon emissions by avoiding the delivery of non-viewable impressions.
- Ad load time is a contributing factor: as more ads load, more emissions occur.
The more engaging the ad, the less energy it will use to do its job. Engaging ads generate 20% more engagement and 83% fewer emissions compared to less engaging ads.
Let's see why. Attractive ads have a direct relationship with the audience's attention. It's about what is attractive or appealing to viewers. It takes a lot of energy to run an ad, and energy equals CO2 emissions. A single ad impression can produce 1g of CO2e, which may not seem like a lot on its own, but when you think about how many impressions a single campaign can generate, the grams start to add up.
So attention time spent is closely correlated with an increase in brand recall, making it even more important to really focus on the right people to capture their attention. An ad that is viewed longer reaches advertisers' goals faster, therefore, it needs fewer "uploads" than a video that is viewed less time. The longer the ad is displayed, the less it pollutes. And for the ad to be viewed for longer, the creative must grab viewers' attention.
Connected TV runs the risk of repeating wasteful practices from the 'explosion' of advertising technology. Scope3 has found that streaming and display ads produce 7.2 million metric tons of emissions each year, respectively.
Anne Coghlan, co-founder and COO of Scope3, stated, "There is an increasingly deep understanding that, by focusing on reducing climate risk, reducing emissions, and not spending money on waste, an advertiser can also achieve better results."
On the other hand, web pages with fewer ads in the top half garnered more attention and generated fewer emissions.
However, it is possible to mitigate the impact of the advertising industry and be more sustainable.
What is sustainable advertising?
Sustainable advertising refers to the use of sustainable principles and practices at all stages of the advertising process, from the creation and dissemination of ads to their impact on consumers and the environment.
Connected TV is a cost-effective solution for reaching the audience accurately at scale.
Performance channels, such as Connected TV, can naturally address these concerns. Unlike other formats where advertisers compete for attention on a shared screen, the widescreen format of CTV organically attracts viewers' attention.
The benefits of a smaller media carbon footprint
Sustainability in programmatic advertising largely revolves around the efficiency of Supply Path Optimization (SPO), which has been around for a long time. If the buyer and seller of media can get closer, with a more direct path and sensible standards, emissions are lower.
One of the measures advertisers are taking to reduce this waste is sustainability measurement, reducing the carbon footprint. While it is still a small group that has addressed these practices, the industry has the opportunity to plan campaigns more efficiently in Connected TV metrics and the environment.
Outlook for 2024
Some strategies to reduce emissions align with efforts to simplify the programmatic market and could be Traffic Shaping and SPO.
- Traffic Shaping is a technique used in computer networks to control the flow of data to shape data traffic to meet certain performance criteria and priorities. Traffic Shaping has been a constant in the AdTech sector. Recently, some publishers have taken on a more active role in this process, seeking to exclusively sell their highest-quality advertising inventory.
SPO, an acronym for Supply Path Optimization, involves buyers identifying the most efficient connections and using them to transact with sellers. SPO simply makes deliberate decisions about which auctions to participate in and which to ignore.
Another alternative to reduce CO2 emissions would be the use of ad grouping or ad podding, as implemented in Kivi's campaigns for its clients, contributing to the reduction of the carbon footprint by eliminating duplicate bid requests. On one hand, greater ad efficiency and energy savings are achieved by reducing emissions.
Despite the increasing interest from buyers in understanding generated emissions, the transition to emissions data-based transactions still seems distant due to the lack of standardization in measurement and confusion about the scope and effectiveness of current initiatives.