4 minute read | Jul. 31, 2023

How Green Media Buying Benefits Brand Safety

Not only is buying lower-carbon emission media a responsible choice, but it’s also a strategic one that holds immense potential for brands seeking long-term success.

How Green Media Buying Benefits Brand Safety

by Avril Tomlin-Hood

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of creating a clever ad campaign. The internet is the gift that just keeps on giving, and every day there’s something new to inspire weird and wonderful creativity.

But while the internet holds endless potential, it’s not devoid of its problems. Which is where brand safety, the protection of a brand’s reputation when online advertising, comes in.

In this digital age, real-time information is available to us 24/7. Your consumers have never been more aware of everything happening all over the world. Your ad, and more importantly, where your ad appears, matters.

The good news is that green media buying – a more sustainable approach to digital advertising – can also help safeguard your brand’s reputation to increase consumer trust and loyalty.

So, what does the relationship between brand safety and more sustainable media buying look like? In this post, we explore:

  • Problems with traditional digital advertising
  • Green media buying and how it benefits brand safety
  • Perks your brand will see from green media buying

First things first: What is brand safety?

Brand safety refers to the protection of a company’s reputation; in the digital advertising space, this generally means that ads are not placed next to any kind of unsavory content that a brand would not want to be associated with. In practice, this looks like ensuring that ads are not placed next to content such as hate speech, violence, or explicit material.

How and where a brand advertises is seen as a reflection of the company and its values. Which is why advertisers are incorporating new approaches to media buying as part of brand safety strategies.

The problem with traditional digital media buying

In our previous post on Scope 3 emissions, we discussed the digital ecosystem’s carbon footprint.

Digital advertising’s emissions are generated through the actions of advertising (i.e. server power, device power, data transmissions, etc.) and throughout the programmatic supply chain (consumers, publishers, ad servers, brands, sites etc.).

And according to Scope3’s State of Sustainable Advertising Q1 2023 report, the digital ecosystem accounts for 3.7% of global CO2 emissions, more than the aviation industry (2.5%).

One of the problems in the programmatic supply chain that is specifically being called out by the industry: made-for-advertising (or made-for-AdSense) websites.

Made-for-advertising websites

Made-for-advertising (MFA) sites are exclusively designed for the purpose of ad arbitrage. They can look like content farms and are often characterized by sensational, clickbait headlines (“You Won’t Believe What Jonah Hill Said This Time”).

We’ve all accidentally clicked on one of these ads before. And when we do, we’re taken to bloated sites with subpar content and provocative images that fail to deliver on the “enticing” promise of their headline, resulting in a poor (and frustrating) user experience.

Not only does this provide no value to the brand whose paid ad appears on the site, but these sites are incredibly carbon intensive to load.

Scope3’s Hidden Cost of Digital Advertising report revealed that MFA sites emit 52% more carbon than reliable publishers.

And with the arrival of generative AI, new MFA sites are popping up every day, making it impossible to use tools like blocklists to prevent ads from appearing on these sites.

One study uncovered how AI-generated websites churn out hundreds of pieces of content a day – including articles that advance false narratives. This high volume of content provides enough turnover of new material to saturate with digital ads to generate profits.

So, if you’re a brand that preaches sustainability, but you’re unintentionally advertising on carbon-intensive MFA sites surrounded by low-quality content, you could be putting your brand’s reputation at risk.

Brand safety and green media buying

This is where green media buying enters the conversation.

Green media buying refers to the practice of selecting ad placements that not only align with a brand’s target audience but also adhere to environmentally friendly and socially responsible guidelines.

Your consumers are incredibly smart and savvy. They want to see you eliminate or reduce your carbon footprint, which includes the emissions generated by your digital advertising.

In fact, in a survey conducted by dentsu and Microsoft last year:

  • 81% of respondents perceive experiencing ads as detrimental to the environment; and,
  • 42% of people think brands should provide clear, comparable information on the footprint of their products and advertising in order to make the brand greener.

Green media buying can help increase consumer trust and loyalty. It also means that you’re ensuring you place your ads on a site that has better content; so, landing in front of actual human eyes, and not landing on fake websites.

Benefits of green media buying

One of the benefits of green media buying is that it prioritizes ad placements on high-quality sites, thereby improving brand safety.

Brands who work with reputable partners (like yours truly) that have guidelines and protocols in place to ensure sustainable practices are being implemented see massive benefits, both to their environmental footprint and their brand.

Benefits you’ll see from green media buying practices include:

  • Better ad performance: Lower carbon-producing ad slots are more likely to perform better! In fact, ads placed on low-clutter pages (so, not an MFA site) experience an 82% increase in aided ad recall and a 62% increase in unaided ad recall, compared to ads on high clutter pages.
  • Enhanced brand reputation: Showing you are committed to sustainability bolsters trust and loyalty with consumers, which enhances your reputation.
  • Differentiation in a crowded market: In a time where consumers are increasingly aware of environmental and social issues, green media buying can help you stand out from your competitors and gain a competitive edge.
  • Positive influence on society: Engaging in green media buying means you commit to positive social change by supporting environmentally-friendly initiatives and promoting ethical practices.

When you work with partners who adopt these sustainable practices, you are contributing to a greener future and also attracting socially-aware consumers – and you’ll see an uplift in performance. It’s a win-win-win!

Final thoughts on ensuring brand safety and sustainability

In today’s advertising landscape, green media buying represents a vital step towards aligning sustainability and brand safety. Not only is it a responsible choice, but it’s also a strategic one that holds immense potential for brands seeking long-term success.