Perspective - A movement to more sustainable media buying

By Adam Roberts | 15 December 2023
Adam Roberts.

The AdNews end of year Perspectives, looking back at 2023 and forward to next year.

2023 was the year in which inflation, the rising cost of living, and ongoing global economic stagnation had a material impact on growth in the advertising market.  

In an uncertain economic climate, brands had to make tough investment choices, and were once again forced to do more with less. As budgets were squeezed, brands sought to extract better value from their marketing spend. We actually think the need to do more with less will drive higher investment into streaming video in display and social video in display as marketers seek out better value and performance from specific channels. 

On the sustainability front, brands were in research mode and many took their first steps towards acknowledging the need for carbon reduction.  Agencies are being asked more frequently by their clients about the environmental impact of their own digital ad emissions. For SeenThis, which delivers adaptive streaming video technology in a display ad environment, this year was about evangelising the benefits of our solution, and forming partnerships with global agencies, adtech partners, and media owners, enabling brands to lessen their carbon footprint. 

The advent of new measurement and reporting technologies, including emissions dashboards, has put further onus on marketers to review their practices, and their vendor lists. The lack of alignment on ways of quantifying emissions, clouding comparison, and many KPIs’ disconnect between carbon cost and business outcomes, is what we believe is hindering the full-fledged adoption of data and emission reduction efforts. However this is changing quickly, as evidenced by the topic of sustainability being present at all major industry conferences in Cannes and New York this year. In addition, the ramifications of new Europe-wide sustainability legislation will have a big impact across the globe, with EU-based companies expected to measure the impact of their value chains. 

In 2024 we will see more action and movements to more sustainable media buying and creative delivery practices. This will include more sustainable marketplaces and better quality ads which are focused on attention.

Across various industries, new sustainability KPIs will emerge, aiming to quantify not just the financial implications but also the carbon footprint of activities. These efficiency metrics will focus on optimising for total emission reduction. However, a critical consideration will be to ensure that the activities measured are genuinely value-creating. Unless optimization is done on the carbon cost of value creating outcomes, there is a risk that efficiency is improved at the expense of higher total emissions.

We also believe that with the further deprecation of the third-party cookie’s usefulness many will experiment with new contextual solutions leveraging the humble display ad format. At the same time, clients will realise they can secure performance and sustainability if they invest in the right technologies with sustainability and performance at their core.

The challenge for brands is how to incorporate carbon minimisation and measurement into actual buying practices. Once the industry coalesces around a standard, we expect more investment in this sector. There were developments and improvements across the industry aimed at delivering more accurate sustainability information and emissions data for websites, mobile apps and tech providers, enabling brands to figure out how to reduce emissions.

However, there is a complex path to traverse before the true carbon impact of digital advertising becomes mainstream across the marketing and advertising community. 

For next year, here are some views on what is likely to happen across the digital media and advertising world, covering industry practices, sustainability, display and video, and AI, of course. 

Cost/Pricing transparency

Pressure continues to mount on black-box / bundled media/data/technology managed services, both in terms of holding company proprietary solutions, but also in terms of successful managed service businesses. Client pitching and auditing has shed a light on agency practices, which is in turn now shining a light on managed service providers.This continued push to transparent models should lead to a better understanding of which components of the media/data/tech supply chain are actually adding the most value.

Market adopts Carbon cost per Outcome metric

Whilst much has already been done in calculating the carbon cost of media exposure, 2024 will see more brands seeking measures that combine both traditional performance outcomes alongside carbon impact.  Carbon cost per outcome is a concept that can bring this to life. This will enable buyers and sellers to actually relate carbon emissions to their current core digital advertising metrics, enabling them to make better and more informed decisions about their buying practices. These new models will also ensure that the performance requirements of their digital advertising activations are taken into account. 

New Display Ad Tech will supercharge video

An opportunity exists to reset the conversation with brands and agencies about the value of display in their planning. In the same way as video/digital has reinvigorated out-of-home, we see an opportunity to reinvigorate display media industry-wide. As brands invest more in video ad content, we expect more focus on the way they use technology to deliver great experiences to their target audiences, at a lower cost to the current video CPM pricing level. 

Video landscape

The video landscape continues to be crowded with SVOD companies increasingly competing for share of core 'screens' budgets with linear, BVOD and YouTube. The prevalence of universal CTV ID's used by holding company’'s will increase as they struggle to replicate the reach, frequency and recency goals of the old linear world in this fragmented landscape.

Mobile screens

Outside of CTV, snackable, mobile-first video content (Reels, Tiktok, Shorts, etc) will continue to grow exponentially and advertisers will migrate in greater numbers to these platforms to supplement their traditional 15/30 second landscape formats with video buys.

Generative AI

It will no doubt continue to explode and mutate in 2024, revolutionising fields such as search, campaign optimisation, text and image creation, and creativity. Its inexorable rise will pose more questions around its environmental implications, particularly its carbon footprint and how these innovations affect our planet.

Adam Roberts is General Manager ANZ at SeenThis

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