Most brands have made some sort of commitment to becoming more sustainable but just 4% of ads contain any such messaging, according to analysis that finds brands are prioritising price messaging over sustainability.
Creative X, a data-to-creativity business, used AI technology to analyse over 2.5 million global ads over a three-year period, supported by over $2.8bn in ad spend, for the presence of 21 sustainability and climate-related keywords. Ads were taken from 38 advertisers, totaling 1,074 unique brands.
Approximately 8% of media spend was invested in ads that contained sustainability messages or keywords. When brands are creating content with sustainability messaging, it seems they are doubling down on efforts to ensure that audiences see and engage with it.
Positive climate mentions are used roughly 4x more frequently than negative or neutral ones. Framing climate positively can be helpful in detracting from a sense of overwhelming doom about the planet’s future which leads to inertia. But there’s also a risk it misrepresents the actual climate impacts a company is having
82% of ads with sustainability messages use keywords that fall within Responsible Consumption & Production (UN Sustainable Development Goal 12). Using the language of the SDGs demonstrates that brands have bought into a shared understanding of the issues the world faces. But slogans are only meaningful when supported by actions.
The EMEA region has the highest proportion of sustainability messaging in its ads (7% of all ads for EMEA, compared to 2.9% for North America). That’s largely down to two countries – Germany and France – and the policies in the European Green Deal which demand greater transparency from large companies on the social and environmental impacts of their activities.
Proportionally, sustainability messaging is featured 4x more in automotive ads than in other industries. Given the industry’s environmental impact, this is not surprising. But it also means that properly screening for greenwashing in automotive ads should be a high priority.
Why it matters
It’s one thing to talk about sustainability and climate change, taking action to improve climate impacts is another. Sustainability is a challenge for brands, but it also represents an opportunity that would be costly to ignore.