How technology cuts ‘hidden’ environmental impacts of campaigns

When marketers think of the sustainability of their brands, their minds probably turn first to their manufacturing operations, their product and packaging materials, and their wider supply chains – areas in which they may aspire to make a difference but often have limited influence. But marketing itself has its own significant environmental footprint, over which marketers and their agency partners have direct control.

Whether it’s the production of physical campaign materials or the logistics of events and shoots, there is a wide variety of areas in which advertising consumes excessive resources and creates unnecessary waste and emissions, and where the industry’s footprint could be shrunk with no determination to campaign cost -effectiveness.

Marketing Week spoke to two experts from global production house Tag – divisional director Tamara Lover and chief operating officer Deepti Velury – to find out how technology can help brands create campaigns that minimize their impact on the environment, as well as reduce costs.

Marketing Week (MW): What level of interest are you seeing from marketers to minimize the environmental impact of their brand marketing and advertising?

Tamara Lover (TL): Most brands understand that their advertising must become more sustainable and they are making changes – but at different rates. Their actions so far may be obvious or subtle.

Regulation means organizations are being forced to act, but consumers are rejecting brands that do not have a credible approach to sustainability. They will call out perceived greenwashing. Employees also expect their company to take a responsible approach to sustainability when producing marketing and advertising.

Organizations need expert advice on how to move forward in this area and meet their business’s (as well as the marketing function’s) sustainability targets. There are things brands can do – such as reduce travel, lighting and use virtual sets when producing ads. For example, we support the global dairy company Arla to create more sustainable campaign shoots for its brands such as Lurpak and Castello.

MW: When it comes to advertising, how much of a problem are waste, emissions and the use of resources? How much of a difference can marketers really make?

SL: Those are all very real problems. In fact, production is one of the largest contributors to emissions in our industry and there are so many things we can do to tackle the issue. Brands need to work with a partner that can identify waste within campaigns and address it. Often there are ‘hidden’ contributors to carbon on shoots, such as how set materials are recycled or not at the end of a shoot, or when deliveries are made to locations.

The most sustainable shoot is the one that doesn’t happen, and where technology is used to best effect. For example, can you repurpose content to meet the objectives of the latest marketing brief?

Crucially, the marketing department can play a major role in ensuring the whole business reduces waste and becomes more sustainable. It has the power to influence people internally and externally.

MW: Are there some areas where brands could make their marketing campaigns more sustainable without spending more money? Are these new production technologies and solutions accessible?

TL: There can be a perception that sustainable production is more expensive. In fact, if you adopt a best-practice approach you can save money.

Virtual production technology saves on travel costs, filming in multiple locations and the cost of set builds. It can also reduce some post-production expenses.

For example, you might have a client filming in a kitchen for different international markets (Europe, the US, the Middle East, Asia) with varying styles of fridges and cookers. It is now possible to create all the kitchen backgrounds virtually and film on the one kitchen island with the brand’s products. The ROI from the campaign and quality of the production are not affected.

In difficult economic times, using technology in this way will reduce costs and drive efficiencies as well as improving sustainability.

Deepti Velury (DV): Marketers are gaining a better understanding of return on asset investments, so there will be a bigger role for data and AI in driving incremental gains in sustainability.

MW: Can production workflow technology also assist in the drive for sustainability and cost-efficiency?

DVD: Absolutely. A cloud marketing management solution will deliver end-to-end workflow visibility, and save time and money. Productivity and governance are also improved. Technology means you can create content in a controlled and sustainable way without having any negative impact on the quality or consistency of the campaign’s output.

MW: What expertise is required from brand teams and their partners to maximize the benefits of sustainable campaign production?

SL: The benefits and possibilities will be maximized if the conversation around sustainability happens early in campaign planning. This gives brands and their partners more time to come up with innovative ways around areas of the production that may contribute to higher emissions.

By using technology, advertisers and agencies can build up a library of different backgrounds, and these can be adjusted as needed by different brands. Working with the right partners fuels innovation and brings a reassurance that the correct roster of suppliers is being brought in to help them.

In addition, there is training available to marketing professionals to ensure sustainability best practice. For instance, we believe Tag was the first production agency to sign up for AdGreen Training. These online training sessions promote environmental sustainability and provide a foundation in best practice for anyone who works in the production of advertising. It covers environmental basics, the advertising industry’s impact on the planet, case studies, and explains how to use its Carbon Calculator. The training hours count towards someone’s IPA CPD Diary.

MW: How can this approach be scaled regionally and across global markets?

SL: The best way to scale this approach is to establish benchmarks on the current way of working and KPIs that the organization wants to achieve both regionally and globally. From there a framework can be created and implemented at both a regional and global scale. However, the true key is having someone accountable both locally and globally to measure and report back so progress can be tracked.

DVD: Cloud technology gives everyone access to digital assets, wherever they are in the world. Using a digital asset management solution lets global advertisers scale, centralise, organize and collaborate their content and control workflows. At the same time, decentralized usage improves productivity and saves money because regional marketers are empowered and can react quicker using local brand content. We have seen this approach pay dividends for global clients such as Heineken, Lego and Coca-Cola.

MW: If sustainable campaigns become standard, how will production technology evolve alongside skilled marketing and agency teams in future?

TL: These are exciting times and, of course, Covid has accelerated the use of technology to make advertising and marketing more sustainable, because marketers are more open to trying new ideas. Everyone is keen to see what happens round the metaverse and new channels as they emerge.

DVD: This is about enabling production tasks to be executed quicker, better and cheaper. Marketing teams and agencies will find the optimal point of friction and the balance between functional and creative value. Technology will be used more to manage repetitive production tasks, which boosts sustainability and frees up creative teams to do more strategic and impactful work.

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