What is the carbon footprint of online advertising? There is an application for that

The internet is a carbon-intensive thing. About 4.1 billion people – or 54% of the world’s population – are now online, and the carbon footprint of the devices and systems they use is estimated to be nearly 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. . These emissions are expected to double by 2025.

Digital advertising is part of the problem. Ethical advertising firm Good-Loop found that a typical online ad campaign emitted 5.4 tons of carbon dioxide, or one-third of what an average US consumer produces in a year.

Purpose Disruptors is an advertising industry network, promoting attitudes, behaviors and brands aligned with a net zero world by 2030.

He revealed that the carbon emissions resulting from the increase in sales generated by advertising in the UK in 2019 was the equivalent of 47 coal-fired power stations operating for a year, meaning that advertising adds another 28% to each person’s annual carbon footprint. anyone in the UK.

Enter Digital Convergence. Irish platform AdTech has launched an online tool to help marketers measure, reduce and offset the full end-to-end carbon footprint of their digital advertising.


Ian Maxwell, founder and CEO of Converge Digital. Photo by converge-digital.com

Ian Maxwell, founder and CEO of Converge Digital. Photo by converge-digital.com

The tool promises to monitor each company’s energy consumption across the advertising supply chain to provide a comprehensive view of the true value of CO2 emissions, including emissions from advertising overhead. agency, content production and broadcasts related to the delivery of the advertisements themselves, such as page load, device power consumption and data collection.

So how are you? Pretty good, according to Ian Maxwell, founder and CEO of Converge Digital.

“The reaction is positive,” he says. “There is a stronger demand for ethical ways to buy media. And people have been talking about it for a while – but it’s hard to conceptualize. To be honest, when they start to see numbers, their first question is ‘is the decimal point in the right place?’

According to Maxwell, many clients are now optimizing their campaigns for carbon emissions – beware, only after their goals have been met. What specific actions are they taking? “It’s a bit of everything,” he said.

“There are questions that can be asked from the creative side, for example; do you need the singing and dancing HTML5 creative, or what can you get for the static jpeg image?

“There are hundreds of different combinations of changes that can be made to reduce carbon while achieving these business outcomes and we’re starting to see agency partners in particular seize hold of them.”

Laura Costello is the main organizer of Purpose Disruptors in Ireland. She is positive about the Converge Digital tool. “This will provide useful data and invite greater critical awareness of media channel choice,” she says, “which should help move things in the right direction.”

“However, I worry about carbon tunnel vision – calculators themselves will not drive the real transformation needed in our industry.

“Globally, the marketing and advertising industry has been widely established as enemy number two – after fossil fuels – in the context of climate, and rightly so. The level of influence we have in driving cultural narratives is one that we have yet to claim full responsibility for, but inspiring movements have begun.

Tech writer Gerry McGovern is skeptical of initiatives like Converge Digital’s tool. “It’s largely greenwashing”

“There are brilliant campaigns going on to encourage agencies and creatives to stop working on fossil fuel projects.

“One lens I’d like to see change is to see people as citizens rather than consumers,” Costello says. “We have the talent and the tools to help our clients rethink their company’s role in society in a more visionary way – as an industry we are uniquely placed to do this because the climate crisis is also a climate crisis. imagination and creativity.

“Culture is one of the most powerful change agents we can harness, and we are at the center of that potential.

“This presents an exciting and unique opportunity for leaders to choose a side, especially as younger employees are increasingly concerned about the net positive impact of their work.”

Gerry McGovern, author of World Wide Waste: How digital is killing the planet and what to do about it is skeptical of initiatives like the Converge Digital tool. “A lot of it is greenwashing,” he says.

“The main problem facing our society is that we consume too much and the primary objective of marketing and advertising is to increase consumption. When advertising and marketing start focusing on reducing consumption, getting people to keep their products longer, and getting them repaired, then we will make real progress.

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