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5 Simple Ways Brands Can Make Display Ads More Sustainable

Sustainability
4
minutes
Technical Level
February 8, 2023
4
minutes
February 8, 2023
Technical Level
Ari Belliu
Marketing Communications Specialist
Every day, brands and advertisers run countless display ads that are seen by billions of people. However, the delivery and hosting of those same display ads release carbon waste into the atmosphere.

What can advertisers do to reduce those carbon emissions? In this post, we cover how digital ads cause carbon emissions and 5 simple ways advertisers can reduce the carbon footprint of display ads.

How Do Display Ads Create Carbon Waste?

For every step in the programmatic supply chain that a display ad takes to reach the end user’s device, it creates carbon emissions. All the servers required to run and deliver ad campaigns use energy and generate CO2 with every process, upload, download and interaction that occurs throughout the duration of the campaign.

However, the amount of carbon waste generated is correlated to the size of the display ad, the energy consumption required to run the ad servers and the end user’s device. Although it can be very difficult to calculate the energy used in all those steps, one thing advertisers can control is reducing the file sizes of their display ads. And, in turn, reducing their overall carbon emissions.

How to Effectively Reduce the Carbon Emissions from Display Ads

A couple practical and effective techniques exist to reduce the emissions from display ads. Compressing the creative and optimizing the supply path are the most efficient ways to reduce and remove carbon emissions generated by display ads.

1. Compress the Creative

Converting the display ad to a more compressed image format has the greatest impact on reducing emissions. Generally, some file formats are meant to preserve or compress the image quality. Different file types like .JPEG and .WEBP have considerably different file sizes. 

For example, .RAW is the largest and most true-to-image format. An average .RAW image from a camera can take up around 20-40MB of space. On the other hand, formats like .WEBP can considerably compress the file size down to kilobytes, with minimal loss to the image quality. Thus, reducing the data transmitted and therefore, carbon emissions. 

For instance, this banner ad is 48KB in .JPEG format but only 15KB in .WEBP format. That’s nearly a 70% reduction in file size.

The comparison between JPEG (48KB) vs. WEBP (15KB) showed nearly a 70% reduction in file size.

.WEBP also supports transparency, 24-bit RGB animation, and is supported by all popular browsers.

Use this chart as a reference for the different image file extensions and their average file sizes to help guide the decision-making process:

Common File Formats and Approximate Size

Name Extension ~File Size
Bitmap .bmp 4GB max.
Encapsulated Postscript (EPS) .eps ~500KB
Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) .gif 1MB max.
Joint Photographic Experts Groups (JPEG) .jpg, .jpeg ~0.5MB-10MB
Portable Network Graphics (PNG) .png Less than 50KB
Unprocessed Image .raw ~20Mb-40MB
Scalable Vector Graphics .svg ~10KB
Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) .tiff ~10MB-4GB
WebP .webp ~15-30KB

Here are a couple of free image compression tools to help reduce the file size of display ads:

1. Squoosh

A free, secure image compression tool that compresses images locally on your device.

2. TinyPNG

The most popular image compression tool that can compress .webp, .png and .jpeg images. A pro version is also available.

Now that you’ve compressed the display ad, optimizing the supply chain is the next best action to reduce emissions.

2. Optimize the Supply Path

Reducing the number of hops the display ad has to take to reach the user’s device, means reducing the data transmitted between each hop. Ensuring that ads.txt files are optimized by removing any redundant or duplicate items and picking the most direct route, can go a long way to reducing the number of carbon emissions generated by display ads.

For example, if an impression requests a 50KB display ad, that’s 50KB per step in the supply chain. Moreover, the average display campaign reaches more than 1 million requests and more than 50 GB of data sent between servers to the users’ devices. 1GB of data is approximately 3kg of carbon waste, so approximately 150KG or more goes into the atmosphere for one average display ad campaign. That’s the weight of an adult panda bear in CO2. Now multiply that for every step in your supply chain. 

Thankfully, there’s no better time than now to start reducing your carbon emissions and help minimize ad tech’s carbon footprint to reach net zero.

Delivering ads through the most direct route with the least amount of jumps in between is one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon emissions from running ad campaigns.

But even after the most advanced image compression, display ads will still have a minimal file size that can’t be avoided. It’s impossible to have a weightless file. So what can advertisers do about those remaining carbon emissions?

3. Compensate for the Unavoidable Carbon Emissions

Fortunately, there is a way to compensate for the unavoidable carbon emissions from display ads. Sharethrough’s GreenPMPs™, built in partnership with Scope3, is the first of its kind solution to enable advertisers to offset the remaining amount of their ad campaigns by funding carbon removal initiatives, such as Direct Air Capture (DAC), carbon soil storage and reforestation.

To date, nearly 6000 brands have collectively avoided releasing over 250 metric tonnes of CO2. That’s more weight in carbon emissions than the Statue of Liberty. 

80% of consumers prefer brands that are actively working to reduce their carbon emissions.

Extra Ways to Reduce Carbon Emissions From Display Ads

There are additional ways advertisers can maximize the reduction of carbon emissions created by display ads. But depending on your brand guidelines, some of these changes may be less feasible. 

4. Pick out the Colors

Did you know that color affects the number of carbon emissions from display ads? To a computer, server, or end-user device, color is simply “information.” The more and heavier the colors there are, the more “information” needs to be processed and the more carbon waste is created. Using colors from the lighter end of the spectrum, such as reds and yellows, require less energy than blues and purples.

Additionally, duotone, the process of using two contrasting colors, can further decrease the emissions and size by about 15%. Using only two colors for a display ad means fewer colors to process, thus saving space and therefore emissions. 

Duotone = 36KB (left) vs. Original 43KB (right)
Gradient maps, or duotone, can help reduce the file size and emissions of display ads by up to 15%.

Furthermore, modern devices with OLED screens save energy when using black. OLED screens are made up of individual LED lights for each pixel, and black means that the pixel is off. The more black that’s on the screen, the less energy it uses. Adding a black border to display ads, like the example below, can decrease emissions by 8-16%. 

Original 48KB (left) vs Border 40KB (right)
Adding a 20px border around the display ad can reduce the file size by as much as 16%.

5. To Blur or to Pixelate?

Another method of reducing the carbon emissions of display ads is to blur or pixelate the background. By blurring or pixelating the background, it blends some of the similar colors in the display ad. And when the colors are blended, there’s less information the display ad has to carry. Which means a lower file size and therefore fewer emissions. 

Original 54KB (left) vs. Pixelated 38KB (middle) vs. Blurred 35KB (right)
Pixelating or blurring the background of a display ad can reduce the file size by up to 37%.

Making Display Ads More Sustainable

Reducing and removing carbon emissions from display ads is easier than one might think. All it takes is some simple compression and color choice changes to significantly reduce the file sizes. For the remaining and unavoidable emissions, optimizing the supply path to reduce the number of hops a display ad takes to reach the end user and compensating for the rest can help make your display ads more sustainable. Stay tuned for more sustainability tips and tricks.

Visit our GreenPMPs™ page to learn more.

To view the free infographic, fill the form below.

Every day, brands and advertisers run countless display ads that are seen by billions of people. However, the delivery and hosting of those same display ads release carbon waste into the atmosphere.

What can advertisers do to reduce those carbon emissions? In this post, we cover how digital ads cause carbon emissions and 5 simple ways advertisers can reduce the carbon footprint of display ads.

How Do Display Ads Create Carbon Waste?

For every step in the programmatic supply chain that a display ad takes to reach the end user’s device, it creates carbon emissions. All the servers required to run and deliver ad campaigns use energy and generate CO2 with every process, upload, download and interaction that occurs throughout the duration of the campaign.

However, the amount of carbon waste generated is correlated to the size of the display ad, the energy consumption required to run the ad servers and the end user’s device. Although it can be very difficult to calculate the energy used in all those steps, one thing advertisers can control is reducing the file sizes of their display ads. And, in turn, reducing their overall carbon emissions.

How to Effectively Reduce the Carbon Emissions from Display Ads

A couple practical and effective techniques exist to reduce the emissions from display ads. Compressing the creative and optimizing the supply path are the most efficient ways to reduce and remove carbon emissions generated by display ads.

1. Compress the Creative

Converting the display ad to a more compressed image format has the greatest impact on reducing emissions. Generally, some file formats are meant to preserve or compress the image quality. Different file types like .JPEG and .WEBP have considerably different file sizes. 

For example, .RAW is the largest and most true-to-image format. An average .RAW image from a camera can take up around 20-40MB of space. On the other hand, formats like .WEBP can considerably compress the file size down to kilobytes, with minimal loss to the image quality. Thus, reducing the data transmitted and therefore, carbon emissions. 

For instance, this banner ad is 48KB in .JPEG format but only 15KB in .WEBP format. That’s nearly a 70% reduction in file size.

The comparison between JPEG (48KB) vs. WEBP (15KB) showed nearly a 70% reduction in file size.

.WEBP also supports transparency, 24-bit RGB animation, and is supported by all popular browsers.

Use this chart as a reference for the different image file extensions and their average file sizes to help guide the decision-making process:

Common File Formats and Approximate Size

Name Extension ~File Size
Bitmap .bmp 4GB max.
Encapsulated Postscript (EPS) .eps ~500KB
Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) .gif 1MB max.
Joint Photographic Experts Groups (JPEG) .jpg, .jpeg ~0.5MB-10MB
Portable Network Graphics (PNG) .png Less than 50KB
Unprocessed Image .raw ~20Mb-40MB
Scalable Vector Graphics .svg ~10KB
Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) .tiff ~10MB-4GB
WebP .webp ~15-30KB

Here are a couple of free image compression tools to help reduce the file size of display ads:

1. Squoosh

A free, secure image compression tool that compresses images locally on your device.

2. TinyPNG

The most popular image compression tool that can compress .webp, .png and .jpeg images. A pro version is also available.

Now that you’ve compressed the display ad, optimizing the supply chain is the next best action to reduce emissions.

2. Optimize the Supply Path

Reducing the number of hops the display ad has to take to reach the user’s device, means reducing the data transmitted between each hop. Ensuring that ads.txt files are optimized by removing any redundant or duplicate items and picking the most direct route, can go a long way to reducing the number of carbon emissions generated by display ads.

For example, if an impression requests a 50KB display ad, that’s 50KB per step in the supply chain. Moreover, the average display campaign reaches more than 1 million requests and more than 50 GB of data sent between servers to the users’ devices. 1GB of data is approximately 3kg of carbon waste, so approximately 150KG or more goes into the atmosphere for one average display ad campaign. That’s the weight of an adult panda bear in CO2. Now multiply that for every step in your supply chain. 

Thankfully, there’s no better time than now to start reducing your carbon emissions and help minimize ad tech’s carbon footprint to reach net zero.

Delivering ads through the most direct route with the least amount of jumps in between is one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon emissions from running ad campaigns.

But even after the most advanced image compression, display ads will still have a minimal file size that can’t be avoided. It’s impossible to have a weightless file. So what can advertisers do about those remaining carbon emissions?

3. Compensate for the Unavoidable Carbon Emissions

Fortunately, there is a way to compensate for the unavoidable carbon emissions from display ads. Sharethrough’s GreenPMPs™, built in partnership with Scope3, is the first of its kind solution to enable advertisers to offset the remaining amount of their ad campaigns by funding carbon removal initiatives, such as Direct Air Capture (DAC), carbon soil storage and reforestation.

To date, nearly 6000 brands have collectively avoided releasing over 250 metric tonnes of CO2. That’s more weight in carbon emissions than the Statue of Liberty. 

80% of consumers prefer brands that are actively working to reduce their carbon emissions.

Extra Ways to Reduce Carbon Emissions From Display Ads

There are additional ways advertisers can maximize the reduction of carbon emissions created by display ads. But depending on your brand guidelines, some of these changes may be less feasible. 

4. Pick out the Colors

Did you know that color affects the number of carbon emissions from display ads? To a computer, server, or end-user device, color is simply “information.” The more and heavier the colors there are, the more “information” needs to be processed and the more carbon waste is created. Using colors from the lighter end of the spectrum, such as reds and yellows, require less energy than blues and purples.

Additionally, duotone, the process of using two contrasting colors, can further decrease the emissions and size by about 15%. Using only two colors for a display ad means fewer colors to process, thus saving space and therefore emissions. 

Duotone = 36KB (left) vs. Original 43KB (right)
Gradient maps, or duotone, can help reduce the file size and emissions of display ads by up to 15%.

Furthermore, modern devices with OLED screens save energy when using black. OLED screens are made up of individual LED lights for each pixel, and black means that the pixel is off. The more black that’s on the screen, the less energy it uses. Adding a black border to display ads, like the example below, can decrease emissions by 8-16%. 

Original 48KB (left) vs Border 40KB (right)
Adding a 20px border around the display ad can reduce the file size by as much as 16%.

5. To Blur or to Pixelate?

Another method of reducing the carbon emissions of display ads is to blur or pixelate the background. By blurring or pixelating the background, it blends some of the similar colors in the display ad. And when the colors are blended, there’s less information the display ad has to carry. Which means a lower file size and therefore fewer emissions. 

Original 54KB (left) vs. Pixelated 38KB (middle) vs. Blurred 35KB (right)
Pixelating or blurring the background of a display ad can reduce the file size by up to 37%.

Making Display Ads More Sustainable

Reducing and removing carbon emissions from display ads is easier than one might think. All it takes is some simple compression and color choice changes to significantly reduce the file sizes. For the remaining and unavoidable emissions, optimizing the supply path to reduce the number of hops a display ad takes to reach the end user and compensating for the rest can help make your display ads more sustainable. Stay tuned for more sustainability tips and tricks.

Visit our GreenPMPs™ page to learn more.

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About Behind Headlines: 180 Seconds in Ad Tech—

Behind Headlines: 180 Seconds in Ad Tech is a short 3-minute podcast exploring the news in the digital advertising industry. Ad tech is a fast-growing industry with many updates happening daily. As it can be hard for most to keep up with the latest news, the Sharethrough team wanted to create an audio series compiling notable mentions each week.

Every day, brands and advertisers run countless display ads that are seen by billions of people. However, the delivery and hosting of those same display ads release carbon waste into the atmosphere.

What can advertisers do to reduce those carbon emissions? In this post, we cover how digital ads cause carbon emissions and 5 simple ways advertisers can reduce the carbon footprint of display ads.

How Do Display Ads Create Carbon Waste?

For every step in the programmatic supply chain that a display ad takes to reach the end user’s device, it creates carbon emissions. All the servers required to run and deliver ad campaigns use energy and generate CO2 with every process, upload, download and interaction that occurs throughout the duration of the campaign.

However, the amount of carbon waste generated is correlated to the size of the display ad, the energy consumption required to run the ad servers and the end user’s device. Although it can be very difficult to calculate the energy used in all those steps, one thing advertisers can control is reducing the file sizes of their display ads. And, in turn, reducing their overall carbon emissions.

How to Effectively Reduce the Carbon Emissions from Display Ads

A couple practical and effective techniques exist to reduce the emissions from display ads. Compressing the creative and optimizing the supply path are the most efficient ways to reduce and remove carbon emissions generated by display ads.

1. Compress the Creative

Converting the display ad to a more compressed image format has the greatest impact on reducing emissions. Generally, some file formats are meant to preserve or compress the image quality. Different file types like .JPEG and .WEBP have considerably different file sizes. 

For example, .RAW is the largest and most true-to-image format. An average .RAW image from a camera can take up around 20-40MB of space. On the other hand, formats like .WEBP can considerably compress the file size down to kilobytes, with minimal loss to the image quality. Thus, reducing the data transmitted and therefore, carbon emissions. 

For instance, this banner ad is 48KB in .JPEG format but only 15KB in .WEBP format. That’s nearly a 70% reduction in file size.

The comparison between JPEG (48KB) vs. WEBP (15KB) showed nearly a 70% reduction in file size.

.WEBP also supports transparency, 24-bit RGB animation, and is supported by all popular browsers.

Use this chart as a reference for the different image file extensions and their average file sizes to help guide the decision-making process:

Common File Formats and Approximate Size

Name Extension ~File Size
Bitmap .bmp 4GB max.
Encapsulated Postscript (EPS) .eps ~500KB
Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) .gif 1MB max.
Joint Photographic Experts Groups (JPEG) .jpg, .jpeg ~0.5MB-10MB
Portable Network Graphics (PNG) .png Less than 50KB
Unprocessed Image .raw ~20Mb-40MB
Scalable Vector Graphics .svg ~10KB
Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) .tiff ~10MB-4GB
WebP .webp ~15-30KB

Here are a couple of free image compression tools to help reduce the file size of display ads:

1. Squoosh

A free, secure image compression tool that compresses images locally on your device.

2. TinyPNG

The most popular image compression tool that can compress .webp, .png and .jpeg images. A pro version is also available.

Now that you’ve compressed the display ad, optimizing the supply chain is the next best action to reduce emissions.

2. Optimize the Supply Path

Reducing the number of hops the display ad has to take to reach the user’s device, means reducing the data transmitted between each hop. Ensuring that ads.txt files are optimized by removing any redundant or duplicate items and picking the most direct route, can go a long way to reducing the number of carbon emissions generated by display ads.

For example, if an impression requests a 50KB display ad, that’s 50KB per step in the supply chain. Moreover, the average display campaign reaches more than 1 million requests and more than 50 GB of data sent between servers to the users’ devices. 1GB of data is approximately 3kg of carbon waste, so approximately 150KG or more goes into the atmosphere for one average display ad campaign. That’s the weight of an adult panda bear in CO2. Now multiply that for every step in your supply chain. 

Thankfully, there’s no better time than now to start reducing your carbon emissions and help minimize ad tech’s carbon footprint to reach net zero.

Delivering ads through the most direct route with the least amount of jumps in between is one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon emissions from running ad campaigns.

But even after the most advanced image compression, display ads will still have a minimal file size that can’t be avoided. It’s impossible to have a weightless file. So what can advertisers do about those remaining carbon emissions?

3. Compensate for the Unavoidable Carbon Emissions

Fortunately, there is a way to compensate for the unavoidable carbon emissions from display ads. Sharethrough’s GreenPMPs™, built in partnership with Scope3, is the first of its kind solution to enable advertisers to offset the remaining amount of their ad campaigns by funding carbon removal initiatives, such as Direct Air Capture (DAC), carbon soil storage and reforestation.

To date, nearly 6000 brands have collectively avoided releasing over 250 metric tonnes of CO2. That’s more weight in carbon emissions than the Statue of Liberty. 

80% of consumers prefer brands that are actively working to reduce their carbon emissions.

Extra Ways to Reduce Carbon Emissions From Display Ads

There are additional ways advertisers can maximize the reduction of carbon emissions created by display ads. But depending on your brand guidelines, some of these changes may be less feasible. 

4. Pick out the Colors

Did you know that color affects the number of carbon emissions from display ads? To a computer, server, or end-user device, color is simply “information.” The more and heavier the colors there are, the more “information” needs to be processed and the more carbon waste is created. Using colors from the lighter end of the spectrum, such as reds and yellows, require less energy than blues and purples.

Additionally, duotone, the process of using two contrasting colors, can further decrease the emissions and size by about 15%. Using only two colors for a display ad means fewer colors to process, thus saving space and therefore emissions. 

Duotone = 36KB (left) vs. Original 43KB (right)
Gradient maps, or duotone, can help reduce the file size and emissions of display ads by up to 15%.

Furthermore, modern devices with OLED screens save energy when using black. OLED screens are made up of individual LED lights for each pixel, and black means that the pixel is off. The more black that’s on the screen, the less energy it uses. Adding a black border to display ads, like the example below, can decrease emissions by 8-16%. 

Original 48KB (left) vs Border 40KB (right)
Adding a 20px border around the display ad can reduce the file size by as much as 16%.

5. To Blur or to Pixelate?

Another method of reducing the carbon emissions of display ads is to blur or pixelate the background. By blurring or pixelating the background, it blends some of the similar colors in the display ad. And when the colors are blended, there’s less information the display ad has to carry. Which means a lower file size and therefore fewer emissions. 

Original 54KB (left) vs. Pixelated 38KB (middle) vs. Blurred 35KB (right)
Pixelating or blurring the background of a display ad can reduce the file size by up to 37%.

Making Display Ads More Sustainable

Reducing and removing carbon emissions from display ads is easier than one might think. All it takes is some simple compression and color choice changes to significantly reduce the file sizes. For the remaining and unavoidable emissions, optimizing the supply path to reduce the number of hops a display ad takes to reach the end user and compensating for the rest can help make your display ads more sustainable. Stay tuned for more sustainability tips and tricks.

Visit our GreenPMPs™ page to learn more.

About Calibrate—

Founded in 2015, Calibrate is a yearly conference for new engineering managers hosted by seasoned engineering managers. The experience level of the speakers ranges from newcomers all the way through senior engineering leaders with over twenty years of experience in the field. Each speaker is greatly concerned about the craft of engineering management. Organized and hosted by Sharethrough, it was conducted yearly in September, from 2015-2019 in San Francisco, California.

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Ari Belliu
Marketing Communications Specialist

About the Author

Ari is an experienced digital marketer with a demonstrated history of multi-tasking and working in health and tech on small teams. He's skilled in copywriting, community building, email and social media marketing, and building brand awareness.

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