Sustainable Advertising: More Than Just the Latest Buzzword

2023-11-30 | Article | Insights

In the advertising landscape, numerous buzzwords have surfaced over time. Some garnered immense hype only to fizzle out, while others gained steady traction, shaping the industry's trajectory. However, it's only recently that one term has consistently echoed louder than the rest: sustainable advertising. Its increasing prominence in conversations signals a shift in industry priorities and a growing recognition of its importance.

AI and Automation: A New Frontier with Old Challenges

As the buzz around sustainable advertising grows, another trend has been making waves: the rise of AI and automation. On the surface, it seems like a match made in heaven. AI promises efficiency, precision, and the ability to process vast amounts of data to make advertising more targeted and less wasteful. Pair that with sustainable practices, and it feels like we're on the brink of a revolution.

However, like any other advancement, this comes with its own set of challenges. AI, particularly in data centers, consumes a significant amount of energy. There was a great article that spoke about the hidden costs of AI, which provides more context on this here. That being said, while we may be reducing waste in one area, we run the risk of increasing our carbon footprint in another. Striking the right balance between harnessing the power of AI for sustainable advertising and avoiding unintended harm is crucial.

Measures are being taken though in the right direction, to tackle exactly just that, for example through Google's “24/7 Carbon-Free Energy by 2030” initiative on every grid Google operates. Google is not the only way, Amazon is also not too far behind with their initiative to have net zero carbon emissions operations by 2040.

Brands, too, have had their share of revelations. Campaigns like McDonald's "Change a Little, Change a Lot" have showcased the power of collective action. For a deeper dive into this transformative approach, Think with Google is a treasure trove of insights.

Guidance in Uncharted Waters

The IAB Tech Lab has been offering insights and guidance as we navigate these uncharted waters. They've not claimed to have all the answers, but they've sparked important conversations in the industry. Here is the playbook on that, titled, “Sustainability Initiative”. Data-driven tools, like Google Cloud's Carbon Footprint dashboard, have been eye-openers. But with every piece of data, I find myself asking: Are we truly making a difference?

Questions to Consider

On this path, individuals may grapple with the following questions:

  • Does one play a meaningful role in this vast advertising ecosystem?
  • Is the industry genuinely moving towards sustainability, or are we just chasing trends?
  • What will the next decade bring, and will we be ready for it?

In conclusion, sustainable advertising transcends being solely a professional challenge: it is a personal journey. As we all reflect on these questions, there is hope that collective insights will contribute to shaping a brighter, greener future for advertising.

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