At Cannes this year, OpenX took the stage with leading partners and clients to conduct three panels on some of the hottest topics in ad tech. Here are the highlights from our Demand Sustainability From Your Media panel.
Moderated by John Osborn, lead advisor at Sharethrough and Director of Ad Net Zero, industry leaders discussed a subject that’s been core to OpenX’s identity over the past five years – sustainability. The panel included:
John began by emphasizing the importance of measuring against specific emissions goals, noting that all Ad Net Zero members must have Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) goals in place within the next twelve months. He then asked the panelists how the industry can tackle climate change, not only from the top down, but with a “bottom-up” approach, which helps create viable sustainability solutions for every part of the marketplace.
Andy Batkin, Founder and CEO, Duration Media, shared that the EU now requires a third-party verified report of carbon emissions and that the US will soon follow suit. He continued that as an industry, we need to focus on third-party verification of our carbon reduction, adding that taking action now is better than waiting for the perfect solution, urging, “Do something, don’t wait.”
Anne Coghlan, Co-founder and COO, Scope3, noted that while some approaches and solutions are very industry-specific, ad tech doesn’t exist in a bubble. External experts and protocols such as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol exist that we all have the opportunity to learn and build from rather than making things up on our own. She nodded to OpenX as a prime example of an ad tech company that has connected to the larger sustainability standards and frameworks available.
Amanda Forrester, Vice President of Marketing, OpenX, shared that OpenX’s path to Net-Zero was part of a larger strategy to transfer to the cloud, which in turn reduced their energy consumption. As the company investigated sustainability initiatives, they became dedicated to measuring and setting goals according to accepted global standards, with the goal of delivering better business results while being better for the environment.
John noted that there are both opportunities and barriers to contend with when it comes to sustainability. In response, Lauren Douglass, CMO, PMG, shared that PMG recently released their first sustainability report, which found that their GHG emissions increased year-over-year due to business growth and a return to the office post-Covid. Despite the increase, they are proud to release the report and are addressing the information that they uncovered with that reporting. She noted for the group that media investments, the impact of offices, and travel are key places to start to reduce emissions.
Amanda agreed that emissions reduction is not a linear path, adding that companies need to balance business growth with emissions and be aware of that interplay. She noted that even with an increase year-over-year, OpenX has reduced its emissions by 95% since its base reporting year of 2018.
Anne appreciated that companies within the programmatic ecosystem are putting out public sustainability reports to map the emissions across the entire supply chain, adding that companies will need to adhere to this process and not succumb to greenwashing – if emissions go up, we need to be comfortable reporting it. “The more companies that put out sustainability reports, the more granular we can be with mapping where emissions are coming from to enable brands and agencies to make media-buying decisions,” Anne observed.
She noted that “learning in public” can be hard in such a competitive market, but it’s encouraging that so many companies are willing to do it anyway.
Andy shared that Duration Media looked at how to reduce waste by making sure that the first ad goes from the typical 100 bid requests to just one, noting that this insight was something they could fix immediately to make their company more efficient.
Amanda shared that OpenX provides options for buyers to eliminate MFA in their spend, adding that not being the biggest SSP is not only intentional but also beneficial in this case. Going a step beyond supply-path optimization with green deal IDs can provide a more streamlined media buy. She continued that, ”most of the SSPs carry similar websites, so buyers can get to the same impression from multiple channels. Having fewer SSP calls is a good thing.”
Anne agreed and noted that when one website has 28,000 server calls, that’s hundreds of SSPs and DSPs being called, which is incredibly wasteful.
Andy added that publishers need to look at their ads.txt to determine how to optimize their setup. As sustainability efforts across the industry spark inspiration for publishers, the cost issue remains, but reducing ad calls and bid requests saves on cloud costs.
As the conversation progressed, John urged the audience to start setting and committing to meaningful goals within the next year using resources like those from Ad Net Zero and the Global Alliance for Responsible Media while partnering with companies that are focused on sustainability in advertising.
Amanda then asked Lauren how buyers are thinking about sustainability for 2023 and 2024. Lauren responded that her path forward is a focus on more than just programmatic. She shared, “We want to look at the picture of our entire investment. If we look at our media mix model, we want to not only look at performance, we want to look at sustainability, too.”
An audience member asked Lauren whether buyers still have tough goals from CMOs. She replied that, “PMG is very performance-oriented, so we are focused on cutting out waste. This year and next year, people may be less interested in spending budget to test big shiny things and focused on performance drivers, which luckily can go hand in hand with sustainability.”
To close out the panel, Anne shared that Scope3 ran pilots to test whether factoring sustainability into their media buying would affect performance. The finding was that performance was either flat or improved as a result of bringing in sustainability. Anne noted that, “There is an education that has to happen to show how sustainability can be good for business.”