In the face of rising concerns surrounding accountability and sustainability, tough calls in the short term can potentially deliver long-term benefits to businesses and society as a whole.
Now more than ever, consumers are demanding better from brands. Conversations around responsibility are at an all-time high; standing by purposeful, authentic values and taking tangible action towards lowering carbon footprint is just the start. How can companies make a meaningful shift towards fully embracing responsible advertising when responsible initiatives are rarely aligned with client targets and campaign KPIs?
We speak with Sam Pattison, managing director of Teads SEA, about the impending evolution of responsible advertising, the advantages of attention metrics over traditional viewability, and how modern problems can be solved through modern mindsets.
What does responsible advertising mean to you?
Responsible advertising is, at its core, a game of trade-offs. It means making decisions that do not necessarily benefit oneself and may not necessarily be the cheapest option, but that ultimately will have a positive impact on society.
I believe in supporting the underdog. It has always resonated that Teads was built on ideals that aligned closely with my personal beliefs. As we have grown and diversified into a full-funnel product, we’ve become a genuine option for clients to diversify their spend beyond social platforms. We think about responsible advertising in three areas:
Quality of supply
Teads fosters a sustainable advertising and media ecosystem by funding quality journalism and respectfully connecting brands to consumers. Our inventory of professionally produced content — not user-generated — is brand-safe by design; that’s our first line of defence.
We are protective of our premium marketplace and have strict conditions for publishers. Crucially, Teads tags are directly integrated into the publishers’ page, so we don’t buy from other exchanges and SSPs. We always know where our ads are running and don’t need an army of moderators to filter unsavoury content.
The long-term sustainability of the media ecosystem depends on respecting users with polite, engaging ad experiences. Teads joined the Coalition for Better Ads and all our formats are compliant with the Better Ads standards.
A recent study by Kantar showed that non-intrusive ad experiences create far better brand linkage, and are more captivating and informative. Teads invented Outstream to offer this at scale for our advertisers. Our own proprietary cookieless data uses best-in-class AI to deliver ads in contextually relevant environments and increase engagement.
Positively impact society
The environmental impact of digital advertising is estimated to account for 50% of web traffic — excluding video streaming. Brands are challenging the advertising industry on the sustainability front, pushing agencies to build carbon footprint calculators.
In a recent report from dentsu and Microsoft Advertising, three-quarters of consumers say that in five years’ time, they only want to spend on brands that practise sustainable advertising. 42% thought brands should provide clear information on their environmental impact. Consumers believe brands — sometimes more so than governments — have the power to help solve social issues, and should be held accountable for it.
You have said that Teads isn’t trying to “own” the conversation around attention and sustainability. What benefits do you hope partnering with third parties such as Lumen or Impact+ will bring on an industry-wide scale?
Sustainability is not a conversation to be owned by anyone. For our part, we are minimising the footprint of our activity on data centres, network infrastructure, and user devices. Only by doing this can we have a seat at the table in the first place.
Simplification through ubiquity is the right approach if we are going to see real change. We recently partnered with Scope3 for beta testing. We are not the first brand to invest heavily in attention, but as an industry, we must know that silos breed problems. Viewability became a KPI because there was one widely-utilised benchmark to work from. Attention needs the same to thrive. In the absence of a better answer, Lumen’s aCPM is it right now.
How will adopting attention as a metric improve the digital advertising industry? Do you have any examples or case studies to share?
One of the biggest issues with viewability is that it is limitless. If you want more of it, you just put more ads on the page or change the environment to promote more opportunities to see the ad. Attention is finite and extremely precious. Consumers only give nine minutes of attention to ads per day, which represents 1% of the time they consume media.
Attention-based metrics are a more meaningful measurement — it is 3x better at predicting outcomes and 180% more aligned to ROI than viewability. You will need far fewer impressions to deliver the same outcome. Not only should this mean lower cost, but also less carbon intensity and potential for greener executions.
We have been testing in this space as a founding partner of dentsu’s ‘Attention Economy’ work, but we only recently brought our solutions to clients. Initial results show that Teads is 2x the Lumen benchmark for both eyes-on dwell time and percent view rate. These metrics give a different output to traditional viewability measurement, but we have a small mountain to climb to demonstrate why the current standard might be flawed.
Historically, the messaging around sustainability has revolved around the tangible, i.e. physical waste, non-biodegradable materials, etc. What can be done to educate people about intangible pollution such as digital advertising?
A person on the street wouldn’t ask if our tech stacks are optimised — they would focus on the messaging and ask that brands avoid greenwashing. However, there is an even bigger emphasis on brands to lead these conversations and provide a voice. As the Covid-19 pandemic began to take hold, an Edelman
report showed that 62% of people did not believe we would make it through the crisis without the support of brands. 55% felt that brands were reacting more quickly than their local governments.
The younger generation of consumers is bringing a new mindset to the mainstream. They are demanding that brands be socially responsible when it comes to time, energy, and resources. Culture is changing rapidly, and the brands that keep up with their consumers’ expectations will be the ones that thrive in the future.
What positive results from your partnership with Impact+ can you share? How are clients receiving Teads’ new sustainability initiatives?
We did our first burst of measurement with OMG in Q4, testing 12 clients on live campaigns to evaluate their carbon intensity and create initial benchmarks to guide progress. By applying simple optimisations — targeting Wi-Fi connections and smaller screens — you can decrease your carbon output by 2.25x.
The real excitement with our clients comes in the ability to drive action. We will launch the ability to optimise based on carbon output on our platform, but in the meantime, we have brought our ‘Advertising with Purpose’ product to key clients, so we can be responsibly aligned and still deliver the quality expected from Teads.
So much of advertising hinges on creative excellence. How are you able to justify the “short-term tough calls” that you speak of to clients?
This is the biggest challenge. It was a big topic for debate in our boardrooms before we embarked on this journey. Teads has long been known for our own creative excellence, so why would we push a narrative that creative should be lighter and less creative?
Difficult challenges need to be accommodated — and embraced — if we choose to do something that is brave. We all have targets and KPIs, but these are not typically aligned with responsible initiatives. The best way to enact such changes is through governance. The appointment of the first Government Chief Sustainability Officer in Singapore is the first step toward legislation that can push those still undecided towards action.
In the future, do you see a way to balance “richly creative execution” with environmentally friendlier practices?
Absolutely — the rise of short-form video is an indication of how we can drastically revise what is considered as ‘richly creative’ and still deliver successful campaigns. A lighter creative doesn’t need to be less excellent. We are fortunate to have an incredible innovation team that relishes challenges and builds our products from their Montpellier hub.
Creative is only one element of the conversation. If you can optimise your wasted impressions and connection type, that’s already a step in the right direction. Utilise an end-to-end platform to reduce tech friction and the waste of computing and network resources. For us, that means using Teads Ad Manager rather than a DSP to buy our inventory. You can also access inventory through vendors that are directly integrated with publishers and don’t resell third-party inventory to prevent the impact of duplicating auctions
on many platforms. Utilise a native player to serve the right asset for the right context, minimising both network traffic and footprint on the user device.