As the UK Government Backtracks on Net Zero, It’s Time for Advertisers to Step Up

By Steve Filler, UK Country Manager at ShowHeroes Group

The King’s Speech last month confirmed fears over a Downing Street rollback on net zero targets, as the UK government pledged to issue new oil and gas drilling licences in the North Sea. While No.10 is having qualms over the financial impact of green policies, digital advertisers must remain committed to the cause.

Rather than shying away from this moment of environmental reckoning, advertisers should be doubling down to take action. Anyone needing inspiration can learn from initiatives taking place in other industries; including Sport England’s announcement that its £300m in annual public funding will now be dependent on fighting the climate crisis, and the arrival of carbon-removed shows from rock band The 1975 at The O2.

Technical and creative innovation is leading the way in many industries striving to tackle the global warming challenge. I would love to see marketers doing the same by adopting a “More is Less” approach – more quality media, more relevance, and more creativity equals less carbon emissions. So let’s explore how and why this approach can deliver results.

More quality media

The first component of digital’s “More is Less” approach relates to quality publishers. A study last year from Ebiquity and Scope3 found that an astonishing 15% of global ad spend is currently wasted on made-for-advertising (MFA) inventory; in other words, content with “no value to business [and] excessive amounts of CO2 emissions”.

The solution is simple, advertisers and their technology partners should align with premium publishers to cut out this waste. Rather than choosing the cheap option, marketers should invest in premium media placements, where engagement, attention, brand safety and a lower carbon footprint are a given, not a gamble.

More relevance

The second step for advertisers is ensuring their ads are always placed within relevant content environments. Prioritising contextual relevance means advertisers are more efficiently reaching users with messaging that will complement their mindset at that specific moment.

This smarter approach of capturing user attention puts more emphasis on making every impression count rather than relying on a lower quality but higher frequency strategy to make an impact. This delivers strong results for brands and ensures a better user experience but even more importantly, means fewer wasted impressions and less carbon impact.

More creativity

The final vital element to ensure this “More is Less” approach is a commitment to creativity. As U2 recently showed us with the opening of the Las Vegas Sphere – an enormous solar-powered live events forum designed to cut carbon emissions from touring – grand-scale creative innovation can go hand-in-hand with reduction efforts, perfectly capturing the “More is Less” ethos.

The digital industry moves at such a fast pace, and with video driving the majority of the growth, it is sometimes challenging to ensure that campaigns benefit from the exciting range of creative opportunities available. However, in the same way that more focus on media quality and relevance can deliver stronger outcomes, taking the time to deliver the most impactful creative experience can ensure advertisers are maximising consumer attention, leading to more efficient campaigns and less wasted inventory overall.

CTV, for example, provides a strong full-screen TV experience for brands to engage consumers efficiently. The opportunity to enhance and tailor this experience for users comes with innovative CTV ad formats that feature branded players, animated QR codes and voice-activated engagement, efficiently capturing user attention and delivering great results.

Actions speak louder than words

The scale of the environmental challenge that faces us in the digital industry is huge. The desire for change cannot be driven by consumers alone, but by ensuring the 61% of marketers keen to invest in lower carbon footprint ads turn this desire into reality.

That’s why advertisers will increasingly work with partners that apply the More is Less approach and use carbon intelligence platforms like Scope3 and Cedara to track emissions from advertising, and provide transparent reduction strategies.

According to Harry Houlder, Media Partnerships Lead at Dentsu: “The numbers surrounding the carbon impact of the ad industry show that we must change our approach. The entire ecosystem needs to work together, and it’s great to see ad techs such as Showheroes pushing for lower carbon impact across their activity. Now is the time to move the sustainability narrative from industry buzzwords to action points, and with the supply side leading the charge with an outlook like “More is less”, we can do better for our clients, as an agency, and as an industry as a whole.”

The recent King’s Speech is now the bellwether for anti-climate prevarication, and for advertisers, it hammers home the need to push in the opposite direction; and aim even higher in creating the reductions we need. By increasing our focus on media quality, relevance and creativity, we can make every advertising opportunity count – achieving more while using less.