Shop Talk is a blog series exploring advertising industry news and trends. They are casual yet informative, diving into the latest relevant topics for fellow industry professionals.
A conversation with Arm Candy team leads, Alysia Ehle and David Mahaffey, about sustainability in ad tech.
Note that the following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
ALE: You know what makes me laugh?
DM: Dad jokes?
ALE: Negative ghost rider. I was going more with sustainability in ad tech.
DM: That’s surprising, knowing that you are an environmentalist. What is it, even?
ALE: Basically, it’s the transition of tech companies’ offices, processing, and data centers to be powered by renewable energy.
DM: Viant quoted that the media industry contributes 2% of total emissions from the internet. Which, knowing how much happens on the internet, is actually probably a pretty big number. It doesn’t seem like that is too costly, considering how much of our lives are passed through data centers.
ALE: You’re right. If you look at data breakouts of CO2 emissions by industry, technology doesn’t even really fit into the picture. The big culprits are what you’d expect: transportation, energy use in residential building, agriculture….
I will say, carbon emissions caused from internet activity is probably larger than you might expect – or something people don’t think about at all. But honestly, the only real way for consumers to produce fewer carbon emissions is to consume less.
DM: Which, is an oxymoron when you’re talking about the advertising industry.
ALE: The thing I do appreciate about this, though, is that it’s being acknowledged at an industry and corporate level. There is way too much emphasis on the actual consumer, who individually doesn’t have the kind of impact that a Fortune 500 company would have.
The companies who may really move the needle are those who are storing massive amounts of actual consumer data – which is continuously growing. Think our favorite social media apps.
DM: Companies like Meta have shifted to be powered entirely by renewable energy and have reduced their emissions by 94%! That is real tangible change, and not just PR fluff. It sounds like that might be the direction you’d like to see companies go?
ALE: Yes, I do actually think that is impressive! Next up to the challenge is AI, which looks like it’s having its own moment with massive impacts on the environment as well. Maybe it can be a movement to let humans just be humans.