Cannes 2024 Takeaways: Responsible Media

By OpenX in Responsibility|July 1, 2024

Welcome to the three-part Panel Series: OpenX at Cannes 2024, your front-row seat to the compelling discussions that took place this year. Hosted by OpenX, this series delves into the critical conversations and insights that are shaping the future of advertising.

The advertising industry stands at a pivotal juncture. Organizations like the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) and Ad Net Zero are setting standards to reduce the ecosystem’s massive carbon footprint, having recently unveiled new guidelines aimed at promoting sustainable media practices

Galvanizing best practices in DEI, the American Marketing Association (AMA) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (the 4As) are on the cusp of releasing comprehensive guidelines to enhance diversity among suppliers; a move that underscores a commitment to inclusivity and equitable opportunities.

These initiatives are not just about promotion; they are about creating a framework for ethical, transparent, and accountable media operations. Moderating “Driving Change Through Innovation: Media and Tech’s Role in Responsible Advertising,” Matt Sattel, SVP of buyer development at OpenX, sat down with industry leaders to discuss the intersection of “purpose and profit,” as one of the speakers so aptly put it. Joining Sattel were:

With so much positive growth happening recently, a question remains: Is the industry ready to wholeheartedly support responsible media? Here are the key takeaways from our panels at Cannes 2024.

Insight one: Is there a unified definition of ‘responsible media’?

In the ever-evolving landscape of advertising, the concept of responsible media has gained significant traction. But what does responsible media truly entail? 

  • Responsible media encompasses ethical practices that prioritize transparency, sustainability, diversity, and accountability. 
  • It’s about creating and disseminating content that not only drives business success but also upholds societal values and environmental stewardship. 

So this catchall covers quite a lot.

“This is something that’s critical to our business because first and foremost, it’s critical to our clients.”

Martin Bryan, Global Chief Sustainability Officer at IPG Mediabrands

For Bryan and IPG Mediabrands, an emphasis on responsible media is baked into the company’s mission and thus, the core function of Bryan’s position. Not only does Mediabrands utilize Ad Net Zero’s five-point climate action plan, they also have a media responsibility index that highlights areas of focus, including sustainability, inclusivity, and safety for their clients. “So this is something that’s critical to our business because first and foremost, it’s critical to our clients,” added Bryan.

For Yahoo, Cirulnick said client priorities tend to concentrate on sustainable media-buying, with Yahoo supporting client investment strategies into minority-owned agencies and multicultural audiences. Newman echoed her sentiments, adding that Raptive is focused on ensuring there’s more diverse human voices on the web. Lastly, Pastore said PMX was intent on addressing those issues as well as AI governance, so that consumers’ privacy was sufficiently protected.

Givsly’s Hickey underlined the importance of these efforts. “82% of [consumers] say they align their purchase decisions with values, while 75% say, ‘I will abandon a brand if they don’t align with my values,’” he said. “Going forward, this is something that needs to be a strategy in all campaigns, because we hear all the time now that purpose drives profit.”

Insight two: Responsible media can go hand-in-hand with business outcomes

The notion that responsible media and strong business performance are mutually exclusive is outdated. In reality, integrating responsible media practices can significantly enhance positive business outcomes. 

Mediabrands’ Bryan noted that prioritizing easy solutions is paramount to pushing responsible media forward in the marketplace. “82% of people are probably willing to make these choices if they don’t cost anything, and if they can feel good when they make that choice,” he said. “I can’t reiterate it enough: it needs to be easy, and it needs to improve performance.”

Earlier this year, OpenX became the first SSP to partner with Givsly to launch Impact PMPs — turnkey deals for advertisers looking to integrate donations to nonprofits at no additional cost. The key is in the ease of activation, which allows brands to support charitable causes of their choice.

“I think that companies need to adopt [OpenX’s] mentality because it shows in the data that you take it seriously. Plus, it’s the way the industry is moving, and there’s no way to avoid it.”

Chad Hickey, CEO and founder of Givsly

Hickey applauded the OpenX team for their conscious effort to address social responsibility inherent in Impact PMPs. “What I respect so much about you all is that you do it because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I think that companies need to adopt your mentality because it shows in the data that you take it seriously. Plus, it’s the way the industry is moving, and there’s no way to avoid it.”

Bryan agreed, noting that OpenX was a great example for other adtech companies to follow when applying sustainable practices to their own business, since it was the first company in the advertising, technology, and media sectors to receive independent verification that it has met the key requirements of the Net-Zero Standard established by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi). He also mentioned the framework being put forth by GARM and Ad Net Zero should act as a big driver of change for the industry at large. 

“A significant portion of our clients, whether they’re based in the EU or not, are going to have to measure and report their emissions with the goal of Net-Zero targeting,” said Bryan. “We can quickly decarbonize, as demonstrated by OpenX. So as an industry, we have this incredible opportunity to make an outsized impact, and it’s going to be required. You guys are just ahead of the game.”

Insight three: We have to design KPIs for a more responsible future

As companies strive to balance profitability with ethical considerations, designing KPIs that reflect these dual goals is crucial. These metrics not only help track progress but also ensure accountability and continuous improvement in the pursuit of responsible media.

There’s only one issue: the ad industry’s KPIs are rigorous and inflexible to a certain extent. PMX’s Pastore encouraged the ecosystem to strike a meaningful balance between KPIs and responsible media practices, with the ultimate goal of redefining what success looks like. “We need to be more open ended on what a KPI should look like,” she said, adding, “we shouldn’t try to bucket it into such a simple thing.” 

“With the third-party cookie deprecation on the horizon, this is the perfect time for every media owner and marketer to rethink the way that they’ve been measuring, attributing, and evaluating the performance of their campaigns.”

Chandra Cirulnick, VP, Global Supply Partnerships at Yahoo

“In my perspective, the way to address this is by showing the impact of the investment,” said Raptive’s Newman. “Whether it’s from a sustainable perspective, a diverse perspective — really being able to illustrate the impact that was made.”

Yahoo’s Cirulnick agreed, noting “with the third-party cookie deprecation on the horizon, this is the perfect time for every media owner and marketer to rethink the way that they’ve been measuring, attributing, and evaluating the performance of their campaigns.”

Hickey’s advice was to identify ways to address KPIs by implementing responsible media strategies seamlessly. For example, Givsly offers creative formats that supply a nonprofit donation when users engage with an ad campaign, a feature that’s offered in OpenX’s Impact PMPs to its buyer partners. “And so what we see is the brand is able to showcase their values in a way that’s actually increasing the performance of their campaigns,” he said. “People need to build products that meet in the middle and achieve both goals at the same time.”

For Bryan, a philosophy more brands should adopt is equal parts purpose and profit. “When you are more sustainable with your media, when you’re more focused on purpose, it actually has the benefit of being more profitable across every metric,” he said. “This is something that we’ve seen time and time again.”


These conversations have been condensed and edited for clarity.