CANNES – The advertising industry’s carbon footprint was a major topic at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, with plenty of discussion about how marketing professionals can include sustainability issues in their decision making.

“Our agencies are getting more and more interest in not only what they’re doing for their organization, but what they can do on behalf of their clients,” Marla Kaplowitz, president and chief executive of trade group the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4 A’s), said in this interview with Beet.TV contributor Tameka Kee. “Collectively, it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re bringing our community and the industry together.”

The association’s efforts include educational programs on how to avoid “greenwashing,” the term for creating a false or misleading impression about a brand’s effect on the environment. The association also gathered information to help the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to update its Green Guides on proper environmental claims.

“We’re continuing to identify what are the issues that we need to be tackling as an industry,” Kaplowitz said.

An emerging issue is the amount of energy required to support automated buying and selling of advertising. The programmatic marketplace relies on networks of computers that not only use electricity, but also require cooling systems to prevent overheating. About 10% of the internet’s energy usage comes from online advertising, according to an estimate published in 2018. In reducing the industry’s emissions of greenhouse gasses, media companies also have a role to play, Kaplowitz said.

“When we look at what the responsibility is for publishers, they have a real opportunity to look at what their own emissions are and how it’s working, particularly in the programmatic space,” Kaplowitz said. “There is an opportunity there if you think about the number of tags that exist on a site, all that pinging.”

Looking ahead, Kaplowitz is optimistic that advertising agencies and their many collaborators will have taken concrete steps to make the media and marketing industries more sustainable. Those efforts include developing software tools to help evaluate carbon emissions from advertising activities.

“We have actually moved to the point of action and change,” Kaplowitz said. “We actually have alignment on a tool that will give a ubiquitous definition and way to address this with a common language for the entire industry.”

You’re watching coverage of the Sustainability & Responsible Marketing Summit at Cannes Lions 2023, presented by Adlook & Sharethrough. For more videos from Beet.TV’s Cannes Lions 2023 coverage, please visit this page.