Program cutting carbon emissions from ads goes global with agency backing

    • Ad Net Zero, a program that aims to curb the environmental impact of advertising, is expanding internationally with the support of several major marketing organizations, per a news release.
    • Dentsu, Havas, Interpublic Group, Omnicom, Publicis Groupe and WPP, along with Unilever and a range of tech companies, publishers and trade organizations, are now working to take the initiative global. Ad Net Zero started in the U.K. in 2020 with a focus on cutting the country’s carbon emissions from advertising to net-zero by 2030.
    • The U.S. and the European Union, two leading ad markets, will be the initial target areas for expansion. Brands independently have more closely examined their advertising’s footprint as consumers reward businesses combatting climate change.

    Ad Net Zero has only been in action for two years in the U.K., but the idea clearly holds appeal with global marketers and agencies that are trying to take a more holistic approach to sustainability at a crisis point for the environment.

    The concept was born of a collaboration between trade bodies the Advertising Association, Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) and Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and the program counts about 100 members across various aspects of the business. Now, it’s getting additional sign-on from all of the major ad-holding groups, along with heavy media spenders like Unilever and leading digital platforms including Google and Meta Platforms. Ascential, the owner of the Cannes Lions festival where the expansion was announced, has played an active role in outreach and supporting the rollout.

    In the U.K., Ad Net Zero has employed a five-point action plan for participants to follow: getting an organization’s house in order; curbing emissions from ad production; doing the same for media planning and buying and awards and events strategy; and leveraging advertising’s influence to steer positive changes in consumer behavior, including the adoption of more sustainable products and services.

    Scaling what’s shown promise in a single market to the international stage will prove challenging, but potentially necessary as the effects of climate change hit increasingly close to home and people question why brands aren’t doing more to stem the tide. It appears as though the pledge used in the U.K. isn’t ironclad, but can be reworked based on the needs of different regions.

    “We are excited to be working now on a roadmap for development internationally, with the flexibility to adapt and develop market specific solutions and share best practice in sustainable ad operations,” said Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, in a statement.

    Advertisers have come under greater fire for their sustainability practices in recent weeks. Cannes Lions, an annual awards show celebrating creativity, was stormed by Greenpeace activists at several points last week.

    As environmental pushback emerges on several fronts, brands have sought solutions providers that can help them reduce emissions stemming from ads. Several clients of WPP’s GroupM, including Toyota, have been testing an adaptive streaming solution from Swedish technology firm SeenThis that claims to cut the carbon footprint of digital campaigns by up to 20%.

    While Ad Net Zero is gunning to be truly global, its first agenda items are the most substantial ad-spending markets. The global ad industry as measured by media investment was valued at about $594.32 billion in 2020, per the announcement, but the top 20 markets accounted for 89.3% of that spend and represent the areas the program will prioritize in the near term.


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