Lauren McGee, Communications Manager at AdGreen, shares how to craft a compelling production reduction story when entering the Campaign Ad Net Zero awards. 

Takeaways:

  • Focus on high carbon activities
  • Don’t overstate your achievements
  • Collaborate
  • Think long term
  • Get started
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The Campaign Ad Net Zero Awards are returning for a third year in 2024, and at AdGreen we have been watching it grow year on year with great interest, as our industry increasingly attributes value to environmentally sustainable practices. Seeing sustainable production criteria included in industry awards is undoubtedly a positive step, but taking it even further, and awarding campaigns that went above and beyond with a specific sustainable production category, is real progress.

The webinar, published on Wednesday 15 May, shared invaluable insights from the judges, as they looked back over successful campaigns from previous years. I was delighted to be asked to join this event to share my advice for crafting a compelling story around sustainable production, both for the Campaign Ad Net Zero Awards and beyond.

There are numerous benefits to implementing carbon measurement in an organisation that goes beyond simply reducing emissions, which were shared recently in the publication of the 2023 AdGreen Annual Review. From saving money to motivating and inspiring employees, organisations that introduce climate-conscious practices are being rewarded for their efforts. The Campaign Ad Net Zero Awards is a perfect example of the new approach our industry is taking to establish and recognise best practice in the face of the climate crisis.

As a considerable part of the scoring criteria is reliant on selecting sustainable production methods, I have put together my five top tips for those crafting award entries, to hopefully provide some guidance as you look to celebrate your low-carbon campaigns.

Focus on High Carbon Activities

In 2023, 72% of all emissions, recorded by completed projects in the AdGreen carbon calculator, were generated by travel and transport, with 60% of all emissions resulting from air travel alone. In contrast, only 0.51% of emissions were generated by disposal. While taking steps to divert waste from landfill is incredibly important, ensure you don’t lose sight of the bigger picture when it comes to making reduction decisions, and be aware of high carbon activities when it comes to submitting an award entry. While the entire crew may have brought reusable bottles to set to avoid single-use plastic waste, if that same crew was required to fly halfway around the world to get to the location, then that achievement loses its impact.

That being said, don’t add carbon-intensive items to the original brief just to say that they’ve been removed, e.g. including flights if you never intended to fly to a location in the first place. If you had always intended to shoot local, to reduce emissions, then that is a great story in itself!

Don’t Overstate Your Achievements

While these awards may not be consumer-facing, we should remain conscious of greenwashing within our industry. 93% of marketers believe that brands have a responsibility to help people live more sustainably, according to the WFA’s Planet Pledge Survey. (https://wfanet.org/leadership/planet-pledge/about) Those working within advertising are calling for our industry to take meaningful action, with these awards being a perfect example, but overstating green credentials will erode trust rather than build it. This is still a learning curve for many of us, and it’s okay to get it wrong or to find out you didn’t have as much of a positive impact as you’d hoped, but we need to be honest and transparent about our experiences if we intend to learn from them. As we often say at AdGreen, don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.

Collaborate

Writing an award entry may be tasked to one individual, but getting insight from everyone involved in the production will help to round out the application and may uncover sustainable practices that you were unaware of. We are all at different stages of our sustainability journey, and it could be that some individuals working on your production have already incorporated sustainable behaviours into their everyday work, without you being aware. For example, did the crew choose to get the train over driving to set, or order plant-based meals, to support your low carbon aims? Did the creative team reduce the number of cast members required, or factor in sustainable materials for the set build, when developing the concept? Or did the production manager choose a studio running on renewable energy as standard? We should be spotlighting all sustainable behaviour, especially if it is happening by default, as that often means that someone has taken the initiative to change the way they approach their everyday work, to the benefit of all of us.

Think Long Term

While it may be fairly easy to reduce emissions on the first production you measure, as you are likely to be starting with a large footprint, as an industry we must ensure we are rewarding long-term change. While we should certainly encourage applications from those taking their first steps into carbon measurement, we should give equal weight to those who have worked hard to reduce emissions consistently production by production, even if the reduction is only small at this stage. Don’t be put off applying for the awards if your emissions reduction on a campaign seems minimal if the reason for this is that you have been incorporating sustainable production practices into your organisation’s approach for the last few years. This is a remarkable achievement that you should share, so make it part of your story.

We saw last year from the winners of the Sustainable Production category, Reckitt, that adopting sustainable practices across campaigns can have a significant impact. By June 2023, over 50% of Reckitt’s advertising video productions in the EU were created using virtual studios, achieving up to 75% CO2 emissions savings per shoot day. Make sure to share your long-term achievements alongside your campaign wins.

Get Started

If you’ve watched the webinar and listened to the advice from the judges, or read the entry criteria on the awards website, and feel that you don’t have a campaign ready to submit to this year’s awards that clearly demonstrates sustainable practices on set, then this is the moment to start. Whether you are currently working on a production, or planning for your next campaign, I would urge you to find a carbon calculator and start measuring your impact. The AdGreen industry-wide data is available to use as a benchmark if you don’t have previous campaigns against which you can compare your footprint. In 2023, the average footprint across completed projects with a budget over £50,000 per shoot day was 13.9. This figure can be used as a reference as you build out your own dataset.

There are still two months left to enter the awards this year, and many months to enter next year, so take this opportunity to begin assessing your production carbon emissions, and perhaps even win an award as a result!

If you want to reduce your impact, check out the carbon calculator to help you measure. You can also the AdGreen resources to help you reduce!