Mediation’s (Completly Unproven) Rank of Media Channel Carbon Badness

Green_normal …is how John Grant described how best to approach the communication of greenness at an event hosted this week by the account planning group.

the ascent of greenness on the public agenda has been swift and universal; Grant quoted Phil Gandy from research company Landor who described it as "One of the most complete and speedy revolutions in consumer attitudes ever seen" (click here for press release).

Grant was discussing what advertising account planners can bring to the table in combating climate change, with specific reference to how brands successfully communicate and capitalise on – genuine – green credentials.

he’s blogging about his upcoming book – The Green Marketing Manifesto – at greenormal, from where you can link to his presentation (alternatively click here).

Grant outlined five principles when communicating a brand’s greenness:

  1. green is a principle, not a proposition
  2. be certain that your business and the green marketing itself will live up to  the standards which you set for yourself
  3. it’s a complex moving target
  4. it’s barely started
  5. there’s not one green marketing strategy, there’s many

but there was one particular aspect of marking green credentials that wasn’t discussed, one that’s already caused more than one of my clients to reconsider their own marketing activities; that of the media with which you communicate your greenness.

it’s one thing to be able to say that you’re a carbon-neutral brand, but to what extent can you say the same for your media schedule?  I’m planning on getting round to some more thorough investigation into this, but here’s my hunch for the run down of how media channels perform – from best to worst…

RADIO you’d have thought is the best performing channel.  the only product is radio waves.  so carbon release is restricted to content production and broadcast, and the electricity required by radio receivers.  that said the channel’s expansion into TV and online distribution could see this change significantly…

ONLINE intuitively ranks well.  no paper; just the electricity to run the machine and the servers to hold the content.  but what a lot of servers there are… a quick search led me to Martin Stable’s blog where he discusses this topic; he quotes an article in Wired Magazine entitled The Information Factories;

"Ask.com operations VP Dayne Sampson estimates that the five leading search companies together have some 2 million servers, each shedding 300 watts of heat annually, a total of 600 megawatts. These are linked to hard drives that dissipate perhaps another gigawatt. Fifty percent again as much power is required to cool this searing heat, for a total of 2.4 gigawatts. With a third of the incoming power already lost to the grid’s inefficiencies, and half of what’s left lost to power supplies, transformers, and converters, the total of electricity consumed by major search engines in 2006 approaches 5 gigawatts.

That’s an impressive quantity of electricity. Five gigawatts is almost enough to power the Las Vegas metropolitan area – with all its hotels, casinos, restaurants, and convention centers – on the hottest day of the year. So the annual operation of the world’s petascale search machines constitutes a Vegas-sized power sump. In the next year or so, it could add a dog-day Atlantic City. Air-conditioning will be the prime cost and conundrum of the petascale era. As energy analysts Peter Huber and Mark Mills projected in 1999, the planetary machine is on track to be consuming half of all the world’s output of electricity by the end of this decade."

Wired Magazine, October 2006

I’m ranking CINEMA next.  big screen so lots of power but usually lots of people so – applying the same logic as car-sharing – the ability of cinemas to people-share see’s them rank above…

…TV.  according to the Carbon Trust the average UK individual, in watching the average TV set, contributes 35kg of CO2 per year to the atmosphere.  nice to know but not sure how it compares to other media.  watch this space.

Paper_dumpI’m ranking PRESS next.  lots of recycling but still lots of paper used and not necessarily recycled.  I may be misjudging the medium as the electricity use is restricted to the point of creation, although this may be balanced by the carbon output of distributing millions upon millions of newspapers and magazines each year.  Images of London freesheets being dumped in bins (above) don’t help the medium’s case too much either.

which brings me to my – unproven – biggest schedule culprit; posters.  according to Postar there are 123,949 poster sites in the UK.  thats a lot of paper being printed on every two weeks.  82,054 of those posters are illuminated – so thats a shedload of electricity keeping them alight.  despite some panels using solar power to illuminate them, I still doubt the capacity of posters to defend themselves in the court of carbon emissions.

Scrolling_backlight So there it is.  my unproven ranking of media channels.  the upshot?  if you have a carefully and elegantly crafted green message, think twice before you book that press and scrolling backlight schedule!

Disclaimer: this could be completely wrong  …but I’m on the case re constructing a more thoroughly research ranking.  promise.

4 responses to “Mediation’s (Completly Unproven) Rank of Media Channel Carbon Badness

  1. Great post Chris,
    That stuff is in the book, although not in anything like the detail you would need to plan around it
    Have you seen this though
    http://www.noughtilus.com/
    (which was pointed out to me by my friend Diana at Clownfish and is going straight into my book too!)

  2. Surely DM is the worst?
    Millions of door drops/inserts printed and distributed every week, many going straight in the bin (not even recycled)
    At least each newspaper is read by someone

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