As global warming becomes increasingly difficult to deny, the concept of sustainable living has transformed from something of a trend to more of a fundamental way of life. We are now experiencing a collective awareness that has propelled an urgency felt by the advertising industry and consumers alike. Advertising and publishing companies are in the spotlight as consumers raise concern over the negative environmental impacts associated with the production and distribution of products and advertisements.
Can the advertising ecosystem be more sustainable? That’s a question on all industry minds as the future of advertising continues to evolve, and the environment continues to be negatively impacted by the supply chain, overconsumption, harmful production methods, and fluctuating consumer behaviors.
What does one have to do with the other?
Consumers actively expect brands to show that they care about the planet and how their products and practices affect the environment. As a result, sustainability is at the forefront of their minds regarding where they shop, how they shop, and what they buy.
And, naturally, they learn about brands and products through advertisements. While it’s up to brands to adapt to new expectations from a production standpoint, they also have a responsibility to promote meaningful conversations and help consumers believe in and adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.
What if advertisers and publishers could encourage consumers to reduce their carbon footprint rather than increase consumption? What if they could normalize a more sustainable way of shopping and living and, in turn, positively impact the environment? Green messaging can drive brands forward as they cater to consumer demand while reducing the mark they leave behind in the process.
“Advertising can play a huge role in nudging people to much more sustainable lifestyles, to helping them to discover new products, and to learn new things about the way we will live in the future,” says Harriet Kingaby, Co-Chair of the Conscious Advertising Network. “And I can see if we consider both of those things; making sure that the environments we are in are healthy, sustainable and respectful of the user, and also putting forward these sustainable lifestyles, then we will be in a much better place.”
Brands must lean away from the growing stigma that advertising accelerates consumption and thus fuels climate change. Instead, they must reposition themselves as advocates for environmental and societal change – in the brands and products advertised, the creatives utilized, and the technology delivering our messaging.
Catering to consumer demand
Consumers are drawn to brands that offset their environmental impact, and sustainability is undoubtedly becoming a behavioral driver.
A 2021 Hearts and Science study on Conscious Consumerism found that a staggering 96% of UK consumers say they now consider their carbon footprint when choosing where to purchase. Consumers’ eco-friendly selections are influenced by environmental concerns (55%) and the desire to do their part for a more sustainable future (49%). Nearly three-quarters of consumers choose sustainable options, and one-third said they would increase their spending on eco-friendly food, drink and home essentials in 2022.
The advertising ecosystem may consider using such statistics to rethink the objectives and principles on which it operates if they don’t align with consumers’. A key way is to normalize sustainable living. Sustainable living is sometimes viewed as inaccessible and idealistic, with some eco-friendly products being more expensive than the average consumer is willing or able to spend. As a result, consumers may feel doubtful about actively seeking ways to reduce their demand for natural resources in favor of what’s affordable and easily accessible. If the advertising ecosystem as a whole can help brands promote sustainable living as desirable and attainable, consumers may feel more optimistic, enthusiastic and willing to adjust their own habits.
While vying for consumer attention by erring on the sustainable side of the tracks, brands must make a pointed effort to be authentic and stay true to their values. Consumers are increasingly aware of companies who claim to be sustainable but maintain unethical relationships on the supply chain or do not fully adhere to best practices.
Pete Davis, the CEO of GreenPrint, asserts that broadcasting sustainability could help brands capture an untapped consumer base, but they’d risk raising distrust. This is because many consumers need a third-party validating source helping to certify progress and carbon offsetting. The environmental technology company conducted a study that found that most surveyed Americans have doubts when companies say they are environmentally friendly, with 53% only sometimes believing such claims.
Likewise, the Conscious Consumerism study found that 52% of UK consumers take a brand’s eco-credentials into consideration when choosing products, and 21% have stopped buying from brands due to their lack of those same eco-credentials.
Brand authenticity starts with aligning company goals and values with actions taken – including a company’s historical behaviors. If adverse behaviors are a part of a brand’s history, they must hold themselves accountable by acknowledging and rectifying mistakes made rather than misrepresenting themselves. Such awareness breeds authenticity and ultimately attracts consumers.
Creatives and sustainability
To be sustainable in advertising, we must also be cognizant of the energy put into the creative content used in ads.
Rather than a constant cycle of fresh content in production – with many players involved – it’s possible to put more effort toward content that will stick. Advertisers must think more long-term and not shy away from recycling creatives that have a history of performing well. Evergreen content can be repurposed, reused and refreshed for new eyes.
Nina Nørgaard Jacobsen, Founder and CEO of Biites, says, “Some of the best-performing pieces of content that we see have been around for three or four years, still driving ROI to the brand and taking on an evergreen quality.”
“Campaign thinking,” as Jacobsen describes, may not be the best way forward. Instead, consider what’s already working – don’t reinvent the wheel – old content can be updated for relevancy and advertised to a fresh audience for a brand new, ultimately sustainable experience. After all, consumers appreciate consistency.
Long-form content is an example of evergreen content that works, rather than the typical bombardment of short-form that we tend to see. Long-form content allows brands to provide significant informational value and demonstrate the company as an authority in their respective industry. While it requires sustained attention, you’re more likely to resonate when users don’t have to bounce around to another page or website to get the answers they seek.
The AdTech industry is responsible for adhering to ethical and sustainable practices within the advertising ecosystem. As such, we must employ our ability to identify our energy consumed, such as the amount of data used and how often, and ultimately streamline those processes to create a more sustainable model. We can also implement technology that nurtures the consumer experience, paving the way for sustainable business growth.
Additionally, advertisers can simplify their tech stack by scaling back on the steps required to create and deliver an ad. They can also optimize digital advertisements to be shorter and in more engaging formats. Fewer partners and unnecessary clunkiness mean less energy overall and a decrease in indirect emissions.
More time may also be spent producing the right ad and presenting it to enough of the right people that there is no longer a need to serve it to a mass of consumers that don’t fit the demographic.
For Ogury, that’s where our proprietary Personified Advertising technology comes in, which uses audience interest data to qualify impressions rather than personal data that qualifies users. This dataset is not linked to any specific user, which ensures complete consumer privacy and data safety. This fundamental difference makes for a future-proof model that can withstand a constantly evolving industry.
Ogury’s fully on-screen formats are unmissable, with a 96% viewability, 29% more than the market average. Our success rates play a direct role in our efforts to reduce our environmental impact. The more attention is paid to an ad, the less a brand needs to run ads, ultimately reducing its footprint. Our framework for measuring attention helps us not only deliver engaging content but more sustainable advertising.
Our values align with the Conscious Advertising Network’s informed consent manifesto, which states that there should be clear, fair and transparent value exchange between companies and their customers – in our case, the collection of data.
User trust is the foundation of sustainability
Moreover, user trust is both a competitive and necessary advantage in building a sustainable business. It is crucial to establish trustworthy methods of communication and data collection that align with company objectives.
Advertisers that use toxic data, for example, will inadvertently result in brand distrust. Toxic data is any personal information collected without the consumer’s explicit permission. Any form of consumer data abuse does damage to the entire ad ecosystem. Therefore, a user-first approach should always be the priority, as it cultivates a safe and sustainable relationship between the advertiser and the user.
Now more than ever, advertising is not just about helping businesses grow but also about promoting more sustainable lifestyles. As Kingaby explains, “Advertising funds the media, so brands should use their platforms to create meaningful conversations around sustainability.”