Ads often run on high-carbon but low-return websites, study finds

Ads often run on high-carbon but low-return websites, study finds
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Marketers often serve digital ads on websites that offer relatively low ROI but generate relatively high carbon emissions, according to a new study.

About 15% of ad spend in the study went to so-called made-for-ad websites, which clutter the screen with ads and low-quality content, according to the companies behind the report. analysis of media investments Ebiquity PLC and Scope3 PBC. , which measures the carbon emissions of digital advertising. The companies said these placements are made inadvertently and the brands do not seek to advertise on these sites.

The study looked at 116 billion digital display ad impressions worth $375 million from 43 advertisers in 11 global markets in 2021 and 2022, and estimated the energy needed to generate an impression of ad by looking at factors such as bids and end-user shows. device.

The companies’ aim was to give brands a better idea of ​​the impact they are having on the environment with their digital advertising and suggest ways to reallocate advertising budgets. to web publishers with a lower carbon footprint, they said.

Concerns have grown in some corners of digital advertising about the industry’s carbon footprint. The business consumes a significant amount of energy, which results in carbon emissions, as many websites trigger automated auctions for various ad spaces each time a consumer lands on one of their pages. The Sites often involve ad technology intermediaries who offer services such as connecting marketers to particular target audiences.

It’s hard to calculate how much electricity online advertising consumes, but a study published in 2018 estimated that 10% of the internet’s energy consumption comes from online advertisements.

Industry players have started to explore ways in which the company could consume less energy. Ebiquity and Scope3 say one way to reduce emissions would be to work to prevent marketers’ ads from ending up on “made for advertising” sites. The consumer experience on these sites is poor, as is the effectiveness of advertising served there, Ebiquity said in a July report.

“In most cases the content is either pulled or hacked from genuine sites or it’s AI generated and it’s just terrible,” said Ruben Schreurs, Chief Product Officer at Ebiquity.

The average number of grams of carbon dioxide and equivalent greenhouse gas emissions per 1,000 impressions for ads was 52% lower on some news websites, those rated “trusted” by the Global Disinformation Index, a non-profit organization that rates news outlets on how likely they are to do so. post blatantly false information — than sites designed for advertising because they run more auctions and contain more tracking technologies, Schreurs said.

The companies said they recommend reallocating investment to high-quality journalism.

Brian O’Kelley, an ad tech veteran who co-founded Scope3 and is its chief executive, said the company is developing benchmarks for brands to determine where their online ad shows are doing and how their performance might be. improved.

“This allows brands to remove high-carbon, ad-designed sites from their campaigns and influence legitimate, high-carbon publishers to clean up their supply chain,” O said. ‘Kelley.

Publishers can also use this kind of information to reduce the complexity of their supply chains as advertisers try to use more low-carbon publishers in their media planning and buying, he said. he declares.

Ron Amram, senior director of global media at Mars Inc., one of the study participants, said the candy and pet food maker is working with its agencies and partners to identify the amount of waste or greenhouse gases created by its digital advertising. before creating the tools and capabilities that can help buy and plan advertising in a more environmentally friendly way.

“You have to understand where the waste is, where the problems are,” Amram said. “The only way to do that is to do a broad assessment and share that information with experts to create a formal point of view, and that’s where we are right now.”

Mikko Kotila, one of the researchers in the 2018 study, said evidence that large sums are being spent on wasteful sites that emit large amounts of carbon should be meaningful to advertisers.

“If that’s not enough to get advertisers to take waste reduction seriously, it’s hard to see what will,” he said.

Other groups are working on different approaches to measuring carbon emissions in advertising. Mr. Kotila was previously Chief Technology Officer at Cavai, a Norwegian ad tech company that aims to tell advertisers how much energy it takes to deliver and render each ad.

But Mr Kotila and fellow researcher Tommy Torjesen, founder and chief product officer of Cavai, said marketers should be wary when perusing claims from companies offering solutions to carbon emissions in advertising.

“Everyone has a solution. So there are a lot of good marketing discussions. But if you drill down into the different claims,” many are not legitimate, Torjesen said.

Money is a sticking point in global climate change negotiations. As economists warn that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will cost many more billions than expected, the WSJ examines how the funds could be spent and who would pay. Illustration: Preston Jessee/WSJ

Write to Megan Graham at [email protected]

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