Robert Sawatzky
May 30, 2024

How Dentsu and Nestlé cut digital ad emissions by 25% in Indonesia

CASE STUDY: By measuring and eliminating higher-emitting media and formats throughout their campaign for Bear Brand's sterilised milk drink, the carbon footprint was slashed by a quarter within a three-month period.

How Dentsu and Nestlé cut digital ad emissions by 25% in Indonesia

Most brands and agencies will agree that the explosion of digital advertising is contributing to the global climate crisis. The energy used through servers and processers in creating, storing, distributing and displaying mass advertising is enormous, with research pegging digital activities as the culprit behind 3.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, eclipsing those of the aviation industry.

To mitigate the impact, media agency networks have been adopting responsible media frameworks and greater options for clients looking to cut their impact through advertising. Organisations like Ad Net Zero have set goals and offered industry training to measure and reduce impact. Change, however, has not been swift.

More than a year ago, Dentsu and Kantar issued a report looking at the role APAC marketers play in corporate sustainability aims, and suggested that radical change was needed in order to hit the UN 2030 SDGs. It found that marketing teams suffered from an ‘organisational intention-action gap’ which lagged behind other corporate divisions like supply chain in affecting change.

Putting action to the test

One of the companies cited in that report for making progress was Nestlé in Indonesia. With its digital population of more than 200 million, Indonesia is expected to be a major contributor towards the rising digital carbon footprint. So Nestlé decided to actively work with Dentsu towards minimising the impact of their advertising carbon footprint, using a digital campaign for their Bear Brand sterilised milk drink as test.

According to the Dentsu Indonesia team writing a case study on this project, including digital operations associate director Vinay Mohan, programmatic operations manager Salma Karima, and AOR director Faheem Merchant, this campaign aimed to demonstrate a serious message. Not only did they want to create step-change towards tackling a fraction of the greater climate problem, but they also wanted it to set a precedent for brands to look beyond media metrics when measuring effectiveness. 

Tracking and cutting emissions: How they did it

In this case, Dentsu applied the Scope3 methodology, by tracking emissions across the campaign’s creative and media journey, including how the ads were built, which ads were shown and where, using their bespoke carbon calculator.  Wishing to move beyond simply measuring impact, their aim was to head towards lower emissions without sacrificing campaign performance. 

They did so by running simultaneous display and video campaigns in Q3 and Q4 2023 and reviewing their emission per impressions (EPI) from their inventory on a weekly basis. Creative formats, playload size in bytes, network and device type were all factored in, as per Scope3 calculations. Inventory which exceeded an EPI benchmark of 0.75g was eliminated.

While still monitoring for effectiveness, media that was generating higher carbon emissions were deprioritised. As a result, the campaign which averaged 0.55g of CO2 per impression in Q3 was reduced to 0.41g in Q4 when the optimised campaign was ramped up to more than double the amount of impressions.

The authors argue that the CO2 reduction equivalent would be that of taking a thousand cars off the road for a year (see other equivalents in the graphic above). While Nestlé has not yet released the full effectiveness results, the campaign’s click-through rates stayed above their benchmarks.

“We were pleased to see a significant, measurable reduction in emissions without compromising the campaign's performance,” says Nestlé’s senior brand manager, Theresia Magdelina. “This pilot underscores our belief that a sustainable future is not only good for the environment but for our brand as well.” 

Now, the Dentsu team would like to apply their learnings more widely. “This success invites other brands to join us in this journey, proving we can pave the way towards a greener future for the advertising industry,” says Dentsu Indonesia CSO Arindam Bhattacharyya.

“This is more than just a campaign,” Dentsu Indonesia CEO Elvira Jakub emphasises. “It's a transformation in our advertising philosophy.”

RELATED STORY: How UOB reduced its ad emissions without compromising on attention time


Campaign Asia

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