Responsible advertising: where to start?

CBC/Radio-Canada Media Solutions' Responsible Media series

A commitment to environmental responsibility

The digital transformation of the advertising industry brings with it a responsibility to ensure that our impact remains positive.

Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI)
Ethical data
Environmental responsibility
Brand protection
The importance of local media
Five key cornerstones: equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), ethical data, environmental responsibility, brand protection, and the importance of local media

Responsible advertising: where to start?

The digital transformation of the advertising industry, spanning the past 20 years, has resulted in a fragmentation of platforms, data and network technologies, opening up new options for advertisers. With this expansion also comes a responsibility: to ensure that our impact is positive. This is where responsible advertising comes into play, but what exactly is it? Above all, this means being aware of the potential impact of each stage of the advertising strategy, from design to consumption, and limiting its effects on the environment, measured in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Here are a number of ways to adopt a responsible advertising approach:

1. Being aware of your impact

To reduce or eliminate the impact of an advertising strategy, it's important to understand that each step of the advertising cycle produces emissions. Whether it's ideation, production, targeting, distribution or consumption, various elements such as servers, transport and the use of materials contribute to these emissions.

The advertising value chain
The advertising value chain

2. Measuring to improve

Companies need to assess their total carbon footprint, including scope 1 & 2 emissions, to understand their overall impact.

Scope 1

Scope 1 represents the direct GHG emissions produced by the company (equipment, fuel for company cars, etc.).

Scope 2

Scope 2 corresponds to indirect energy-related emissions that do not occur directly on the company site, such as electricity, heating and air conditioning.

Scope 3

Scope 3 emissions are more complex. They include emissions generated indirectly by corporate activities such as business travel, suppliers and advertising.

Major multinational agencies, under the umbrella of the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, are developing GHG calculators to understand the impact of these activities. The current focus is on measurement, identifying high-volume areas and finding more efficient choices before optimizing campaigns according to emissions. CBC/Radio-Canada has launched a plan, aimed at understanding and measuring all sources of emissions, a process that requires the commitment of every business unit. This approach enables us to better understand the emissions associated with our productions, studios and content.

3. Making the right digital choices

The launch of Scope 3 and the Jounce Media report have sparked a movement against Made for Advertising (MFA) sites. These platforms frequently use catchy headlines and sensationalist content to attract visitors. While the programmatic advertising market on the open web is estimated at $88 billion, spending on MFA sites totals around $10.1 billion worldwide1. However, these sites tend to offer low-quality content and use intrusive methods such as pop-up ads and autoplay videos. Their main goal is to maximize the owners' advertising revenues, without providing any real added value. Therefore, it's advisable to limit the purchase of ads on MFA sites, and to favor recognized Canadian content companies.

Finally, it's important to team up with partners and suppliers who adopt sustainable practices at every stage of the supply chain. It's a good idea to choose those who share their progress, even if the process is ongoing, and to encourage them to measure their environmental impact in order to foster transparent collaboration.

Julie Kerr, Executive Director, Digital Ad Product and Revenue

"We need to understand the potential impact of each step of an advertising strategy in order to limit its effects on the environment."

Julie Kerr
Executive Director, Digital Ad Product and Revenue

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