Without question the topic taking the forefront at the 2023 ANA Advertising and Financial Management Conference was sustainability. It was an eye-opening experience to finally grasp the damaging impact marketing is currently having on the environment, and also how Procurement is taking up the mantel to make a significant impact in reducing waste.
As this was my first ANA, let me first take a short segue about the conference itself. An avid conference goer, I was impressed at how well-run, and efficient it was. There was adequate signage, an amazing and helpful app, and the staff was always right there for every need, meals were excellent and served quickly and on time and social hours were fantastic. The one room for everything style was a little strange to me at first but I did like the fact that I didn’t have to choose one presentation over another, also it gave each speaker the maximum audience. I especially enjoyed the breakfast roundtable where I got to hear perspectives directly from industry leaders. Finally, ANA walked the sustainability walk by providing a simultaneous virtual conference, which I noticed had more attendees than its physical counterpart.
I have to admit when it comes to environmental issues, I’ve always been a proponent but never really understood how marketing agencies could really make much of an impact. What a shock to see what a large carbon footprint the industry has! For a good and well-researched overview, see Perspectives: Advertising and climate change – Part of the problem or part of the solution?
First, there is just the physical waste, how many laptops have you been through since you started your marketing career? But more damaging is the amount of energy consumed from the creation and storage of digital assets. Although some feel digital is an overall reduction in carbon footprint from the heavy print days, others feel it will or maybe already has already exceeded print from just the sheer amount of digital assets being created and stored.
It has been wonderful to see our industry, and business in general move from the “greed is good” sentimentality of the 90’s to doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. But it would be naïve to believe businesses are going to suddenly and collectively take a loss in profit to do good. Don’t get me wrong, there is a trend in that direction, but some are going to need more incentive and that is where companies’ procurement comes in as the environmental superheroes.
Let’s be honest, Marketing and Advertising makes revenue by producing. If they can do another shoot, create or recreate another campaign, they will make more money. Many contracts are hourly or are at least deliverable-based. So self-regulation will simply result in a loss of revenue.
Procurement to the rescue! Since Procurement controls or at least heavily influences which projects and who their budget is ultimately rewarded to, they can choose what specific projects and what vendors they choose to work with. This allows them to push Agencies into thinking about sustainability by only rewarding deals to those that: meet certain environmentally responsible criteria, off-set with carbon credits, or have specific programs in place to directly reduce waste.
And this is exactly what they have done. Companies' KPIs and even in some cases individuals' KPIs are now tied to environmental sustainability, which will require Agencies to step up and meet a certain standard.
I am proud that ICP is leading the way in this area with our “Content for Life” ™ program which evaluates and creates a system to reduce waste by allowing for content reuse while also speeding time to production and reducing costs.
ANA was a fantastic conference from all points: learning, network, and logistics, I look forward to 2024 and checking out the other ANA conferences.
Steve Bevilacqua, Group Business Director