Ineffective Advertising is a Climate Crime.

Ineffective Advertising is a Climate Crime.

Jonathan Butts
President and Executive Creative Director

A mind-blowing conversation on the global warming impact of digital advertising, dark data and crap creative work.

First off, I’d like to thank my fellow Caples Award juror, Rik Haslam, Co-Founder & Creative Partner, Brandpie, New York, for the title of this post. He nailed it.

I was part of a mind-blowing education-ideation session yesterday on global warming and the impact of dark data, which is one of the greatest hidden problems in the advertising industry. The session was brought to us by Caples Awards Custodian, Patrick Collister. It was led by one of our jurors, Ian Bates, and by Graham Hitchen from Loughborough University.

In a world where people complain about the carbon footprint of Taylor Swift’s jet travel, there’s a much bigger issue.

Did you know that data centers generate more global greenhouse gas emissions than the entire aviation industry every year?* And, according to a 2019 report from Statista Digital Economy Compass, digital data creation is about to explode, from roughly 175 zettabytes to 2,142 zettabytes in the next decade.

Sixty-five percent of the data that sits on servers around the world, consuming vast quantities of energy and producing CO2, is called dark data. It gets used once. Or never at all.

The ad industry produces and leverages insane amounts of data, only to achieve an average digital ad click-through rate of roughly 0.05%, (just one in 5,000 ads actually spur action).

AI is only increasing the amount of auto-generated, creatively void, digital spew that’s flooding every screen we own. Yeah, yeah, you can tell me that AI learns and optimizes and improves efficiency. But the efficiency of what? Garbage in, massive data lakes of garbage out. And at what cost to the planet?

Watch the education session and our conversation to see what a bunch of creative types think.

And, watch this space for progress as our group formulates ideas to make a difference in the ad industry.

*DIGITAL DECARBONIZATION: WHAT IS IT & WHY DOES IT MATTER? Professor Graham Hitchen, Loughborough University, UK, 2024.