The good news is that the advertising industry has been developing an organizing principle to make itself carbon neutral. The bad news is that it’s not exactly media neutral.
Ad Net Zero, which began as a well-intentioned U.K. ad industry initiative in 2020 to reduce the carbon footprint created by the ad industry, this morning unveiled its U.S. rollout in the New York City offices of WARC, a London-based publisher of industry news and data that is owned by London-based holding company Ascential plc, that is best known as owner of the ad industry’s Cannes Lions Festival.
The unveiling, which follows Ad Net Zero’s global rollout at last June’s Lions festival, and an announcement last October that it hired former OMD CEO John Osborn to lead the U.S. initiative, is yet another example of Ascential’s integration into the infrastructure of the U.S. and worldwide ad industry.
Ascential, which began as British trade publisher EMAP, acquired the Lions festival in 2004 and has operated it ever since.
In 2017, Ascential acquired influential U.S. ad-industry management consulting firm MediaLink, which it subsequently sold to U.S. talent agency UTA in 2021, but it still maintains ties to MediaLink founder Michael Kassan, who has been managing Hudson MX, a U.S. advertising and media-buying processing startup backed by Ascential that has been trying to compete with legacy provider Mediaocean.
This morning, Ascential announced a restructuring of its investment in Hudson MX, bringing its minority stake to 36.5% of the company, and putting it on a path to majority ownership.
Ascential acquired WARC in 2019, and subsequently began integrating it with the Cannes Lions Festivals, including a new “co-curated” “Creative Impact Content Stream” it will publish daily beginning at this year’s festival in June.
WARC, which began life as a conventional publisher of trade publications like the U.K.’s Admap, has subsequently repositioned itself as the world’s “authority on marketing effectiveness,” has since moved into a subscription-based data licensing model, but it continues to publish ad industry publications.
Among other things, it has an exclusive deal to publish the U.S. Advertising Research Foundation’s Journal of Advertising Research, and it has since integrated the journal’s archives into its subscription database.
There wasn’t much news actually unveiled at this morning’s U.S. rollout of Ad Net Zero, other than the fact that WARC is now an official member of the initiative, along with Ascential’s Lions festival, many big ad agencies, media suppliers and ad tech companies, and U.S. trade associations including the Association of National Advertisers, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
“The new U.S.-based group will have representation from many of Ad Net Zero’s global members, including Cannes Lions, Dentsu, Google, Havas, IAA, Interpublic Group, Meta, Omnicom, Publicis Groupe, PubMatic, Reckitt, Unilever, WARC and WPP,” Ad Net Zero states in a press release sent to MediaPost, which estimates that its members currently represent “40% of the world’s ad spend.”
There was no explicit statement from a WARC executive, but Simon Cook, CEO of sister company the Cannes Lions, noted: “The U.S. launch is very timely, adding: “This year, Cannes Lions will introduce a sustainability criteria across the award entry system. This global set of information will help us create an annual benchmark for how the industry is making progress on embedding sustainability into our industry’s work. The U.S. market represents 40% of the world’s ad spend which is why the launch of Ad Net Zero USA is so important as we continue to make progress in tackling the climate emergency.”