3 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint in Programmatic Advertising

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In recent years, the programmatic advertising industry has discovered that it generates a sizable carbon footprint. I too was surprised to learn that the internet produces more carbon emissions than the entire aviation industry. That’s why companies like Scope3 and trade associations like Ad Net Zero are emerging, guiding the industry towards becoming more environmentally sustainable. 

Although becoming carbon-neutral is challenging and quite complex, there are relatively simple practices you can apply to begin seeing results as early as this quarter.


1. Optimizing Programmatic Bidding

There’s a lot of “digital noise” in the programmatic marketplace, which leads to a greater carbon footprint associated with buying ad impressions. Fortunately, there are now cutting-edge solutions that help turn down that noise and focus on the right signals. These technologies enable us to reduce the volume of bid requests required to buy impressions for a successful campaign, which directly reduces the campaign’s carbon footprint. According to Statista, ad selection – the process through which bid requests win the auction to serve ad impressions – comprises 61% of the carbon footprint associated with programmatic advertising.


carbon emission distribution generated by programmatic advertising


At BRAVE, we’ve developed a proprietary predictive intelligence engine to help ensure only relevant and valuable impression opportunities are sent to DSPs. By enhancing signaling and price guidance for smarter buyer decisions we can reduce bid requests by up to 92%, thereby decreasing the carbon footprint involved.


2. Maximizing The Impact of Video Advertising

Today, it’s well-known that video empowers storytelling and drives engagement in ways that other formats aren’t able to – and I’m a big believer in the potential of video advertising. It’s apparent in the fact that the digital advertising industry has pivoted to video for no other reason than to yield performance.

However, when it comes to branding campaigns, it is a perfectly potent (as well as eco-friendly) alternative to use a blend of video and display ads that complement each other and create an enveloping experience across devices. Research by fifty-five demonstrates how 1,000 impressions for a paid video campaign have emitted 1,500g CO2eq, compared to a mere 30g CO2eq for 1,000 impressions for a display campaign. That’s a whopping 50x difference, bringing to light practices that can significantly reduce a campaign’s carbon footprint. Using effective display creative designed to support video ads makes it possible to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the campaign.

Our internal data further shows that 70% of the impressions served in 2023 were by display ads. The 70-30 mix of display and video ads yielded positive results for our demand partners and greatly helped them reach their campaign KPIs.


3. Leverage Branding to Improve Sustainability While Respecting User Privacy

Branding campaigns are surfacing as a key method to achieving campaign KPIs while simultaneously utilizing a more sustainable approach. Ironically performing better than performance-driven campaigns, brand-focused campaigns make it possible for marketers to successfully face the challenges of running in-app and web campaigns outside of walled garden platforms without targeting data. As in-app performance-driven campaigns pursue app downloads and similar events, they lead to a greater volume of bid requests served in pursuit of new or returning users, leading to both a lack of efficiency alongside a bigger carbon footprint.


While performance campaigns lead to greater volumes of bid requests that leave a bigger #carbon footprint - branding #campaigns are surfacing as a key method to achieving KPIs while being more #sustainable. Share on X


In parallel to being more environmentally conscious and better performing, branding campaigns don’t depend on personal user data to achieve KPIs. Whether deploying contextual targeting or prioritizing best practices for privacy, branding campaigns allow marketers to achieve their goals without using personal user data.

In 2023, BRAVE increased the volume of impressions served to publishers by 174%, and our revenue more than doubled while focusing on branding campaigns solely, and we expect both to continue rising in 2024.


So Why Not Start Now

Many variables impact the sustainability of an advertising campaign, including the advertising shoot, the media purchased, in-store, and other physical marketing collateral. We may even stop traveling to advertising shoots and start using AI with virtual presenters to create campaigns. 

Even though carbon neutrality is a long-term objective with many complexities, marketers can begin seeing results in the short term by optimizing programmatic bidding, supporting video campaigns with display ads, and running branding campaigns to make their advertising more sustainable now.


brave ssp sustainability


Actionable Takeaways on Sustainable Ad Technologies:

  • Evaluate your current ad-tech stack: Audit your existing stack to identify areas where energy consumption could be reduced. Look for providers that prioritize energy efficiency.
  • Adopt low-impact ad formats: Transition to lighter ad formats that require less processing power. Consider static images or text-based ads over heavy video or animated ads when appropriate.
  • Leverage energy-efficient servers: Ensure your digital ad operations are hosted on servers powered by renewable energy. If you’re working with a third party, inquire about their green hosting options.
  • Implement server-side ad insertion (SSAI): SSAI can reduce the carbon footprint by streamlining the ad delivery process, minimizing the need for multiple client-side requests.
  • Educate your team and partners: Share your findings and strategies with your team and advertising partners. Collaboration is key to industry-wide improvement in sustainability practices.