We are facing a climate crisis: as an in-house agency (IHA) leader, what can you do? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale of the issues we face, but everyone has a role to play.
Many brands and organisations have made commitments to reducing the impact on the planet of their operations, including aiming for net zero by a certain date. Marketing departments and in-house agencies will be examining how their own activities fit in to the overall ambition here. That journey can begin with the relatively small step of understanding what carbon emissions your work is creating and how that is happening. Gathering that data is the first step to taking action.
Since 2021, AdGreen has offered the advertising production industry resources, training and, crucially, a tool to do this. Its Carbon Calculator is derived from the tool developed by Albert for the TV industry. The carbon emissions associated with every production, whether it involves stills, film or any other type of creative technique, can now be measured and analysed. This provides IHAs with the ability not just to measure their own work but also to compare it with the rest of the industry. It also helps identify the quick wins where carbon impact can most easily be reduced.
Last year, some 500 projects were recorded in the AdGreen Carbon Calculator. Its data shows that 62% of the emissions of those projects was created by travel and transport (of teams and equipment). Using AdGreen’s tool, it’s possible to compare how, for the same shoot, carbon emissions compare if different modes of transportation are used – how, for example, having one team member travel by car from London to Edinburgh compares to if that person flew or took the train, or if four crew members shared a car.
BIGGEST CARBON CONTRIBUTORS
Changing travel policies is a quick win, but having this data can prompt a wider reassessment of how work is made. AdGreen has revealed that the next biggest contributor to carbon emissions is what it calls ‘spaces’, the energy needed to run equipment on shoots, which accounts for 25% of the total. Then comes materials – including set builds, catering and costumes. So if travelling to a location, running equipment at that location and building the sets and feeding the people there are major contributors to emissions, virtual production processes or using production services companies with staff based at your desired location all come into play.
But there is only so much that can be done at the shoot stage. At a recent online discussion for brands, AdGreen’s Jo Fenn referenced some research from Albert which found that, in the TV industry, the average production manager is only able to remove 15-20% of the carbon footprint of each project through the kind of choices mentioned above. That is because so much of the eventual carbon footprint is ‘baked in’ at the writing or creative stage. The same goes for advertising.
Having emissions data can prompt a wider reassessment of how work is made.
A script may require extensive travel. Tight timelines and limited budgets, as well as procurement processes, might mean that alternative solutions cannot be fully explored or new partners that offer low carbon alternatives can’t be onboarded in time.
It is therefore vital that carbon impact is considered as early as possible in the creation of campaigns – it may even be part of the brief. If not, it should certainly be considered when shaping an idea and it’s here where having actual data to hand, rather than relying on assumptions, can be a huge help. And it further underlines the strategic role of production – something which IHALC is exploring in our current Making It series of events. If reducing your IHA’s carbon footprint is identified as an ambition at the start of the year, that can allow time for alternatives to be explored and new suppliers identified and onboarded as part of the overall production strategy.
INCREASING BRAND TAKE-UP
Thanks to AdGreen, we have the means to make a difference, but the adoption of those tools is still not widespread, particularly among the IHA community. Almost 80% of the projects uploaded to the AdGreen Carbon Calculator last year came from ad agencies or production companies: just 8.4% came from brands.
Among other topics, a recent AdGreen online session examined the barriers to starting to measure your carbon footprint. Time and expertise were noted as a factor – everyone is busy, there may be little appetite to add to workloads with additional responsibility. There is a nervousness about getting this wrong or not having access to all the data needed.
The message from those on the call, including representatives of ISBA, production consultancy APR and David Akeredolu, Diageo’s global lead for creative production, was not to let perfection prevent progress. You can start small, just by measuring, for example, tier 1 projects, which probably have the most scope for reduction anyway. Perhaps there is a member of staff who is passionate about climate issues and would love to take this on. Talk to your production partners too, many of whom will already be monitoring their carbon footprint and can do most of the data gathering for you.
But the important thing is to start. Sooner or later, measuring the carbon footprint of advertising production is highly likely to become mandatory, either through legislation or because of the net zero commitments of organisations. Already in TV, productions for the major UK broadcasters must use the Albert carbon calculator to measure their carbon footprint. This, will surely happen in advertising too.
IHAs have a great opportunity to take a leadership role here. Organisations are looking to reduce their emissions across all their operations. Adgreen has built the tools that will allow in-house agencies to make their contribution and build their reputation for problem-solving and innovation within the business. Time to make a start.
For more on AdGreen, see weareadgreen.org
For more on in-house agencies, visit Creative Review’s dedicated content hub sponsored by the In-House Agency Leaders Club, The In-House Life