Decarbonise marketing from the inside out

By Anna Perry, June 2022. Posts

Our reflections from WARC Talks webinar.

As we step into the most determining decade for the future of the human race so far, brands have a responsibility to actually deliver on their pledges for net zero. No more greenwashing. No more offsetting without decarbonising (finding energy-efficient alternatives to cut day-to-day operational carbon emissions). It’s time to get our heads down.

At a recent WARC Talks webinar, the panellists Laura Wade (Head of Sustainability at Essence) and Andy Wilson (Head of Sustainability at Ogilvy) took us through some of the essential ways in which the media and marketing industry need to respond to the climate emergency – and we’ve had some thoughts since attending.

At Brilliant Noise, we help brands streamline global marketing operations to cut waste and enable carbon saving at the planning and production level. And we’ll show you how. But, first, we need to understand that…

It’s our problem

Marketers have a powerful influence over culture and commerce. With that comes a responsibility to inspire organisations and audiences towards real, positive change. But a sustainable marketing strategy isn’t just about what you say; it’s also about how you say it. 

The most credible brands can speak to consumers with confidence and authenticity because they’re always demonstrating how sustainability runs right through the organisation. This means marketers must tell sustainability stories in sustainable ways.

Without planning that considers the carbon waste in campaign operations and activations, brands risk greenwashing and undermining their sustainability messaging altogether. And we can’t let inefficient marketing teams become the puzzle piece that prevents brands from reaching their all-important net zero targets.

“Data is energy and energy is carbon” –  Laura Wade

That comment could have summarised the WARC webinar. Reflecting on her own organisation, Laura explained that digital media contributes to around 55% of carbon emissions. Meaning there are huge opportunities for decarbonisation in media planning and spending. 

“We need publishers and media owners to create a media ecosystem fit for purpose for a sustainable society,” Laura added. And carbon calculators (like the IPA Media Climate Charter) that give us a clear overview of emissions across the supply chain are becoming more and more sophisticated at helping us measure this. 

Demand is growing for a carbon neutral media system, but marketers aren’t off the hook. There are huge savings to be made before content even leaves the building. Digital marketing operations can (and do) produce a lot of unnecessary carbon, so we can (and should) enable carbon saving at the production level of marketing strategy, not just in our media placements and choices.

Efficiency = sustainability 

When planning and delivering campaigns, balancing cost, quality and carbon doesn’t have to be a compromise. Why? Because the most efficient processes often save the most time and resources, making them the most sustainable options by default. Not always, but pretty frequently.

As Andy noted, there are quite a few ways marketing organisations are addressing production emissions on the ground, like using computer-generated imagery or remote location shooting for campaigns. But many global marketing organisations are facing even bigger emission monsters.

The real issue

While working with our global clients, we find that (on average) only 30% of campaign assets created centrally get used by local markets. 70% go to waste. Local teams then create their own content to reflect their audiences, cultures and seasonalities. No matter the savings made at production level, all this duplication means budget, time and carbon that could be spent on efficient activation is wasted on making extra media.

Marketing leaders need the foresight to plan streamlined campaign operations. Organisations can ensure that wasteful elements are cut right out by establishing better lines of communication between central and local teams, as well as efficient processes that unite them around common KPIs. 

All of this leaves local marketing teams with essential and relevant assets to activate. Couple that with conscious media deployment, and there are three efficiencies to be gained: less carbon output, better use of budget and more globally consistent campaigns. Read more about optimising global marketing operations here.

Time to act

Marketers often talk about the difficulty of closing their audience’s intention-action gap when it comes to adopting sustainable behaviours. But, as Andy put it, marketers aren’t matching their sustainable intentions with sustainable actions either. Decarbonising marketing production is a simple but powerful way to start closing that gap.

Offsetting is no longer a serious option towards net zero. To create fast, efficient change, we need to get under the hood of global marketing operations, discover where the waste is, and start streamlining for better results. 

Get in touch and let’s have a chat about cutting carbon, boosting efficiency and doing more with less.