'Huge opportunity' to reduce carbon in ad production, report finds

AdGreen’s Annual Review calls for advertisers, agencies, and production companies to increase data analysis, collaborate more closely and adopt more sustainable approaches

By Creative Salon

New data, published in AdGreen’s first Annual Review, has highlighted the huge opportunity for carbon reduction in the process of ad production around the world. Significant changes to ad operations are crucial for the industry to meet its net zero target. Immediate measures to be actioned include fresh approaches to travel and transport, renewable energy choices in production facilities and locations and, data collection and analysis from a higher volume of campaigns.

While the review's findings (see below) suggest a number of ways that ad production can make these carbon cuts, we spoke to a number of industry insiders to understand what changes they've already introduced in-house and what practices they plan to continue cultivating to commit to acting as sustainably as possible.

Morgan Cox, Head of Dynamic Content & Global Studios, MSQ

The most important lesson for the industry has been that, when it comes to sustainable production, it’s a bit like medicine – prevention is better than cure. You need all stakeholders – from creative to production – pausing at the beginning of the process to consider the best and most sustainable approach to the client’s brief.

If you bake in sustainability and proof by data at the beginning, you will remove any subjective views and in turn focus the entire team on the best creative solution that also delivers the best results for the client and the planet.

You can't fix sustainability in post. Bring the entire team and the client on the sustainability journey and benefit from the start.

Jess Ringshall, Chief Production Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi

The most important lesson of the last 12 months is consistency. Becoming more sustainable is a core objective and at the same time a huge challenge for the whole industry. We must keep showing up. AdGreen has provided the tools - we have to implement them consistently like a metronome to collectively create change.

Chloe London, Head of Moving Image, St Luke's

We know that when the commitment to reduce the carbon footprint on a production comes from the full agency and client team, huge tangible changes can be made.

From writing a script that lends itself to a UK shoot, to working alongside production companies to make a UK shoot budget work, to reducing shoot attendees and implementing on set best practices; we know that we can significantly drive the footprint down on any production.

With that in mind, the most important lesson we’ve learnt over the last year is, the more we can motivate the full team around us to put the environment high up on the team's agenda, the greater and quicker the impact. Putting elements in place such as a motivated green team and AdGreen training across all departments are quick ways to get the message out there internally.

Clare Donald, Chief Production Officer, Publicis Groupe UK

To change our behaviour towards more sustainable practice, the first things we need to achieve are awareness and advocacy. AdGreen does a great job of both. By identifying ways to reduce carbon and to generate collective action, we’re able to work more effectively with our clients on their path to net zero.

AdGreen Annual Review: The Lowdown

Key findings from the first full year of data recorded in the Annual Review include:

• 2,446.1 tCO2e (metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent) were emitted as a result of the 515 projects completed in 2022

• 289 projects were under 1 tCO2e, with a combined impact of 83.53 tCO2e

• 4 projects were over 100 tCO2e, with a combined impact of 459.7 tCO2e

• The mean size of a completed project was 4.7 tCO2e, although projects ranged massively from 1.5 kg to 129.6 tCO2e

• Travel and transport accounted for most emissions generated as a result of all activities recorded (62.4%). Energy and fuels used to power spaces accounted for almost a quarter (24.6%), Materials for 12.4%, and the activity area with the least impact was Disposal, at just 0.6%

• For projects with shoot days recorded, the mean impact per shoot day was 2.2 tCO2e

• 87 companies created the 515 projects, and 200 of them were created by a just 5 organisations. 39 companies completed just 1 project.

Jo Fenn, Global Director of AdGreen, said: “The report shares the carbon data from 515 completed projects, and we believe that there are many more projects akin to those in the 50 tCO2e and above category being produced across the industry both in the UK and beyond, not yet being recorded. It’s clear that engagement is needed from organisations working on larger scale productions so that we have a more even picture. As more of these larger projects are recorded in the tool, we expect the average project size to rise, along with the other related datapoints.”

ISBA, the IPA, the APA and the AOP have worked with AdGreen from the start to ensure the offer to the production community accurately reflects the industry it is supporting. AdGreen has been adopted by many organisations, both in the UK and internationally, and for members of Ad Net Zero it is a means of implementing Action 2 of the programme: reducing emissions from ad production. Since the carbon calculator launched in September 2021, over 750 creative agencies, production and service companies have registered for a free account, with many going on to create projects and begin measuring their emissions. AdGreen has used its Annual Review to spotlight the organisations who are taking the next step to engage with carbon measurement by naming the top creative agencies and production companies who have the largest number of completed projects.

The top production companies are Big Sky Productions Ltd, Biscuit Filmworks, Coffee & TV, Econ Films, Gramafilm, Hurricane Media, Odelay Films, Park Village, Perma Collective, Raw Production, Root Creative Global and Spindle.

The top creative agencies (inc. in-house production) are CNNIC Create, CraftWW EMEA, CULT Ltd, Dyson, Gleam Studios, Havas, Makerhouse, Oliver, Saatchi & Saatchi London and STV Creative.

The report shows that travel and transport activities across all projects emitted the most tCO2e. As AdGreen demonstrates in their sustainable production training, air and road travel can contribute a significant amount to the carbon footprint of a production, and it can be an automatic decision to fly cast, crew and clients out to a location shoot. For the projects sitting at over 100 tCO2e, 74% of emissions came from travel and transport, with 49% from air travel alone. As these projects are indicative of the work being created by many large ad campaigns, the total impact of flights taken for production work across the industry will be significant.

Clare Donald, Chief Production Officer for Publicis Groupe UK and AdGreen Advisory Board Member, said: “I’m pleased to see how well our agencies have integrated the carbon calculator into a new way of doing business, and how supportive our clients have been of our efforts to track and lower our emissions, and I’m delighted to see Saatchi & Saatchi is a top agency user. The tool is the first step. The next step is for us to build on our learnings and work together as an industry to move production towards genuinely sustainable solutions.”

Rob Newman, Director of Public Affairs at ISBA, said: “Brands who are already engaged with AdGreen are the early adopters who are reaping the benefits of this analysis, and who consequently can think more intelligently about the impact of their production work and the changes that they can make. For many, this will be essential as they seek to draw up and meet their own businesses’ sustainability goals.”

AdGreen is backed by the Advertising Association, a co-founder of Ad Net Zero alongside ISBA and the IPA.

Sebastian Munden, Chair, Ad Net Zero, said: “Ad Green has created a powerful resource for any advertiser and their partners to take active steps to reduce carbon emissions from their ad production process. The ability to calculate and predict the potential impact of production choices on emissions creates the opportunity for an active discussion right at the start of the process, rather just reporting and mitigating at the end. We urge all companies, including the growing number of supporters in the Ad Net Zero community, to review these findings and take practical action on all the productions they are planning this year. Many users have found ways to save costs as well as carbon. The training, calculator, tools and techniques are all freely available at the point of use, so nothing could be easier or smarter than adopting their use with immediate effect.”

The review also shares several case studies and examples of reduced carbon activities that productions can choose. These examples demonstrate that considerate production does not mean a compromise on the quality of the work, but an opportunity to rethink the traditional, utilise technology and expand creative networks.


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