Accepting and adopting Advertised Emissions can help create the necessary industry response to the climate emergency, says Jonathan Wise, co-founder, Purpose Disruptors.

When you put a new idea into the world it can be interesting to see who comes forward and the conversations that ensue. This is the case with Advertised Emissions. People are getting in touch as the idea is stimulating thoughts for them and in discussion, we both achieve new levels of insight and understanding. One such conversation was with Andy Sandoz, Global Chief Creative Officer at Deloitte. I’d never met Andy but he got in touch via LinkedIn saying “Congratulations on creating such a clever, simple and utterly disruptive number with Advertised Emission. It has my mind running in many directions, if you fancy discussing it further, I’d be keen to hear more”. What a great invitation!

During our wide-ranging conversation we talked about the task of establishing the methodology to enable agencies, brands and media platforms to measure their Advertised Emissions. Andy then said, for an organisation seeking to calculate their Advertised Emissions:

“The baseline number itself is less important than the journey involved in getting to it.”

This is a profoundly important point as it reflects the tremendous opportunity that Advertised Emissions offers.  

Advertised Emissions are the greenhouse gas emissions that result from the uplift in sales generated by advertising. In the report, launched by Purpose Disruptors, which piqued Andy’s interest, econometrics agency Magic Numbers calculated that the Advertised Emissions created by UK advertising adds 28% to the carbon footprint of every single person in the UK. Advertising drives consumption that drives emissions. We believe organisations who commission (brands), create and place (creative and media agencies) and display (media platforms) advertising and other paid for promotional work should take full responsibility for their climate impact. They should measure and reduce their Advertised Emissions in line with the science: 50% by 2030. 

Companies, once they accept and adopt the idea of Advertised Emissions will calculate their current, base-line Advertised Emissions (we are hosting a group of industry leaders to co-create the method to do this) and then set a 50% reduction target.  

This sets up the goal of generating a numerical starting point and then working towards halving it. This meets Andy’s insight about the current orientation of business: “If it’s not measurable, it’s not real”.  

But as Andy says, the real value of Advertised Emissions is not in the number itself, but the journey involved in getting there. Advertised Emissions creates three things for clients, agencies and media platforms:

  • It creates awareness
  • It creates conversation
  • It creates application
  1.  It creates awareness

At present, the climate gaze of the advertising industry and surrounding ecosystem is focused internally: measuring and reducing emissions of offices, the production process and media selection. Yet, we all know that advertising’s biggest impact is the effect it has in the world - the consumption it helps drive. Advertised Emissions clarifies this. It is an easy to grasp concept that anyone can use, with their colleagues and peers, to raise awareness of our fuller responsibility. Once you have walked through the gate of awareness you cannot go back.

  1. It creates conversation

Once an organisation accepts the responsibility for their Advertised Emissions they graduate to a different level of leadership. They begin to discuss the relationship between their work, consumerism and climate. They accept that, as the advertising industry, we are the architects of desire and at present we are using that power, largely, to drive unsustainable consumption (see 28% figure, above). How do we want to wield our power?

It takes courage to ask different sorts of questions. How do we change to reduce our impact? How do we create work we can be proud of with our children, nieces and nephews? What should I do more of? What should I do less of? Where do I start? This can be daunting. What is exciting is that it is virgin territory for creativity and transformation. 

  1. It creates application

The advertising industry is way behind in meaningfully responding to our climate emergency but our cousins in finance have shown what is possible. We were inspired to write the Advertised Emissions report by the idea of Financed Emissions, where financial institutions measure and reduce the emissions that result from their investments. At COP26, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) announced that over 450 firms in 45 countries, representing over $130 trillion have committed to measure and reduce their financed emissions to net zero by 2050, if not sooner. Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, with US$10 trillion in assets under management calculated their finance emissions to be 330 million tonnes (nearly twice the figure we generated for the whole of the UK advertising industry!).  

Meeting their net zero commitments will result in a huge transformation of the financial industry as it shifts astronomical amounts of money away from reliable fossil fuel related investments into new, emerging opportunities to drive the green economy.  

Can we undergo a similar level of transformation? Can we apply our creativity, insight and strategic nous to rewire our businesses and creative output to bring forward a different, desirable, low carbon society? 

This is the level of opportunity and application.  

As Al Gore says “Our world is now in the early stages of a sustainability revolution that has the magnitude of the industrial revolution, but the speed of the digital revolution.” To help facilitate this, the majority of major advertisers have net zero plans. They have all committed to achieving net zero by 2050 if not sooner. The exciting thing is that few of them have any idea of how to get there. 

By making ambitious net zero goals, companies have made a commitment to a sustainable future.

By adopting Advertised Emissions, it creates the same leap of commitment from agencies and media owners.

It says “we are with you on your journey of transformation”.

For it will be the brands, trusted by their consumers, that will translate necessary, radical new business models into desirable new behaviours. This will happen faster if the agencies they work for and the media platforms that carry the communications have the same goal: to reduce the emissions of their consumer-facing activity, i.e., the work they create and display. For example, many fashion, white goods and tech brands will have to transition to a circular model as a means to achieve net zero emissions. This means their customer relationship changes from a create desire / purchase / dispose / repeat model to a model where customers keep the product for longer, replacing worn parts, bringing them in for upgrades or returning them to be dismantled, recycled and used again. For this to happen requires a dramatic shift in thinking. From people as consumers to people who are participating in helping companies succeed in delivering a new business model.  

Agencies and media platforms who are committed to reducing their Advertised Emissions will be invested in changing how they think too. They will have accepted that the future is not like the past. They will relish the opportunity to help their clients move on beyond the desire / purchase / dispose / repeat model they have contributed to. They will work out how to re-tool their offerings to help advertisers accelerate towards their new zero commitments as they are also their net zero commitments: everyone in the ecosystem has the numerical incentive to reduce the carbon footprint of the consumers they influence. For agencies, this will enable them to capture more upstream value as they use their creativity to help reshape a client's entire customer experience to deliver the alternative business model. These are the kind of new applications that Advertised Emissions will create.

Those that are not committed to Advertised Emissions will not. They will not have a leading mindset that wants to fully contribute to the sustainability revolution and meaningfully help address our climate emergency. Clients and talent will see and know this.    

In a nutshell

Accepting and adopting Advertised Emissions can help create the necessary industry response to our climate emergency. An easy to grasp idea to create awareness of the relationship between the creative output and climate, an objective, numerical-based way to have the conversation and a concept that creates exciting new ways to apply our skills and talents to address our biggest challenge. If we choose, we will reduce our Advertised Emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050 if not sooner. In doing so, we will create a legacy we can be proud of.

Are you in?