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Nina Franck 

Yes, we can have our green cake and eat it

Yes, we can have our green cake and eat it

Strategy LeadersWith more conscious planning and creative solutions, reducing the environmental impact of media planning doesn’t need to mean we compromise on effectiveness.

Since the pandemic, and now even more so with the climate summit in Glasgow, awareness for urgent action is increasing and people are understanding the urgent need for change.

The majority expects businesses and governments to take responsibility to turn things around and avoid the worst case scenario.

But do we apply this to our own work as well? We are part of businesses and can contribute from various angles. Do we help tackle climate change in media planning?

As it goes in terms of priority to limit emissions: reduce, reuse, recycle.

How can media planners start to reduce the impact media planning has on the environment? Official bodies like IPA or agency networks like Publicis  Groupe have already developed tools that can help make a start.

In order to reduce, we must understand the emissions media planning brings with it. It is a very new way of looking at media which for many years has focused mainly on cost efficiency, mass market comms with high frequencies, but more recently shifting from cost efficiency to attention.

Can we improve media efficiency by looking to reduce emissions?

IPA’s Media Climate Charter uses a range of data sources such as electricity emissions factors, device power outputs and energy intensity to determine the carbon footprint of a media plan at channel level.

Furthermore, it factors in file sizes, view time, power consumption (i.e. for out-of-home) and number of posting cycles (printed OOH).

Looking at these factors, aiming to reduce carbon emissions can potentially have an impact on the effectiveness. Do we want to go with smaller formats, smaller file sizes etc. that potentially limit attention and effectiveness?

If effectiveness decreases, would that mean that in the end that more media budgets will need to be spent to make up for the lack of effectiveness. There is a risk of a vicious circle here.

While being carbon emission conscious is an important step, media’s effectiveness still needs to be considered. Otherwise, even a reduction in carbon emissions are wasted when the media doesn’t do the job it is meant to do: grow businesses.

As Richard Kirk has written here last week, finding solutions to cross-channel frequency measurement can have a real impact on effectiveness while reducing emissions by simply reducing inefficient exposure to ads.

OOH has a particular role to play

So, it needs to be a broader view, looking at reduction and efficiency.

Publicis has also launched their A.L.I.C.E. tool which helps their network’s agencies to be more conscious, or maybe even start to develop a consciousness, for the impact our media planning and buying has on the wider climate. The aim here, again, is to help reduce emissions which is a great and important start.

In actual terms of media planning, one highly effective channel is OOH. Due to its shift to digital OOH in recent years this channels offers great opportunities to reduce carbon emissions.

Always being a channel with innovative character, some OOH sites are now fitted with more sustainable LED lighting. JCDecaux’s aims to cover 100% of its electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2022 and choosing its fleet for posting, maintenance and cleaning based on their environmental impact. Maybe e-cars will form the fleet entirely soon, who knows?

OOH sites can help be more green in itself by installing urban gardens on bus sites for example, or, encourage more sustainable behaviour.

For example, A1 Telecom in Slovenia raised awareness of diminishing food for bees towards the end of the summer due to increasing heat levels. The brand transformed the capital Ljubljana into an urban garden of 3,500 honey bee plants for a week (pictured, above). People could take one of the 12 sorts of plants from street panels to create their own bee forage oasis at home and help bees over the drought period.

There are good and important steps happening in the media industry and with more conscious planning and creative solutions, reduction doesn’t need to mean a compromise on effectiveness. It can actually have the opposite effect.

Nina Franck is an independent comms and media planning consultant

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