​​​​​​     ​ 

This week for our ESG series we are joined by two wonderful guests in the digital advertising world, John Goulding Global Chief Strategy Officer and Debbi Rosenthal Head of Solutions at MiQ.

John is a media & technology leader with 14 years’ experience in the digital advertising space. As Global Chief Strategy Officer at MiQ he oversees a team of 280 product, engineering and data-science specialists, focused on building technology that improves programmatic campaign outcomes for advertisers and agencies. Prior to MiQ, John worked at A&N Media where he helped to establish a programmatic practice for titles such as Metro, Local World and MailOnline.

Debbi is MiQ’s Head of Solutions, UK, where she leads a team of analytics and technology specialists to deliver innovative programmatic solutions that answer its clients’ most pressing business challenges. Debbi’s previous roles centred on Digital Analytics & Personalisation in both agency and client side. At MiQ, Debbi is passionate about developing the next generation of women innovators in adtech and co-chairs the company’s women’s network, WiQ, as well as being an active member of Bloom and other industry groups.

Q. Tell me about what you’re doing in the ESG and sustainability space at MiQ?

A. John: There are two main areas we can split this into: how we help our clients to become more sustainable and meet their ESG goals and what we are doing to get our own house in order.

Debbi: To speak to the client side, I would say we can break this down into two further categories. Firstly, how we help clients buy with carbon emissions in mind. To do that, we have partnered with Scope 3 (a popular partner and standard bearer for carbon data in the media industry) to access and analyse every impression we serve so it can be tracked and scored. We can then use this data in several ways. One way is private marketplace deals for programmatic buys. This is where clients can buy inventory which MiQ has determined to have lower predicted carbon emissions and is already optimised for a specific client KPI. This results in good performance at the same time as lowering carbon emissions from marketing. Another is to give clients a bespoke “green score”. That green score is calculated from Scope 3’s emissions data for every impression we serve, mapped to create a sustainability index which shows advertisers how their campaign emissions compare to that of their industry and market. This is something we do as standard with all clients running a campaign with us.

The other aspect of how we work with clients on this topic is around creative. We use companies such as Seen This which reduce carbon emissions across different creative formats by loading those creatives in bitesize pieces, therefore reducing wastage.

That’s a snippet of our work from a purely carbon emissions perspective and the only thing that I’d add to that is we don’t use and view sustainability as a marketing KPI on it’s own. A lot of the work we have done to lower carbon emissions and make it easier for clients to buy into has involved creating models off the back of this work which look at campaigns from a multi-KPI view. Therefore, rather than just considering the carbon footprint of a campaign, we tend to consider attention, carbon, and performance metrics in one place to build a holistic approach for clients.

John: When we consider our internal efforts, starting at the ESG level, there’s four areas that are really important for us as a business:

  • Responsible advertising – making sure our ads are well placed, and brand safe, that they include appropriate messaging and that there’s a high level of data privacy among our best practices.
  • DE&I – this is something we’ve been focused on for the past four years. We produce an annual public-facing report that we are really proud of. We feel as though we’re making some really good progress in this space. For example, 47% of our managers are women – up from 33% in 2020, and 27% of our managers are BIPOC, up from 20% in 2020.
  • Employee centricity – ensuring we have an amazing employee experience so we can retain and grow talent while offering training and support.
  • Environment –we have a specific focus on greenhouse gases and reaching Net Zero. We’re only 18 months into the journey in this area. However, we have just produced our first public facing report in 2023 in terms of measuring our carbon footprint. We’re trying to enhance our ability to report accurately every year, implementing a Net Zero strategy to be achieved by 2030 with Scopes 1 and 2 to be met by 2025.


Q. Are advertisers and their agencies leaning forward on this topic collaboratively?

A. John: I think if it’s really central to a brand’s identity, then it is the client that’s pushing it and the agency is simply finding creative ways to execute. However, there are some agencies, particularly some of the bigger agencies, where ESG is becoming a central theme. In that instance, there is some momentum and movement on this. The latter camp I believe is more in its initial phases.


Q. What percentage of clients are leaning into the data and measurement that’s being produced by agencies?

A. John: Right now it’s the top 5-10% most vocal advertisers for who sustainability is part of the fabric of their brand. Outside of that, we are trying to make this a mainstream option so it’s a win-win for clients. Performance isn’t going to go down just because there’s slightly more focus on ESG. In some cases performance may also improve! It’s just about a mindset and behaviour transition.

 Debbi: I would say there is a lot of interest but also nervousness around the performance side, which is why we have spent a lot of time focusing on the performance aspect of carbon emissions and green scores. The easiest way for us as a managed service to help clients benefit and bring about change in their own media buying is to work on it behind the scenes while still delivering performance. We will still continue to put things like the green scores on Post-Campaign Analysis (PCAs) so that clients are aware. However, this is something our traders can do without needing to obtain serious levels of client buy-in and support as it’s already built into our existing capabilities. We don’t charge anymore for providing this, we wouldn’t increase the CPM for that analysis. It’s a balancing act of the clients asking for it and wanting a lot more, as well as those who just want to dip their toes into this measurement and care more specifically about performance.


Q. Are there companies you feel have already demonstrated a robust strategy in this space and if so, what are they doing?

A. Debbi: It depends on what lens you look at ESG through, whether that’s societal or environmental. B Corp registered businesses seem like a good place to start as an indicator of their commitment to ESG, but beyond that there are some bigger brands that really carry this ESG ethos through everything they do. You can see this in brands like The Co-op. The Co-operative Bank’s TV ad last year was a great example of this.

Broadly from the societal and governance side, there are agencies such as Mullen Lowe Agency  that take pride in how they create very best possible employee experience and give back to society. They seem very advanced and strong when it comes to issues such as women’s health and invisible issues.

John: There are companies within the programmatic space really leaning in here too. On the ad tech side, Open X is pushing both to get to Net Zero and elevate the debate. Publishers like The Guardian are also performing well relative to their peers which is a result of their transparency and reporting. It’s encouraging to see this in the data and reassuring us to spend more.


Q. What do you think key players in the industry might be focused on in 2024 with regards to an ESG agenda?

A. Debbi: I think we are likely to see, and hopefully see, focus on the broader set of ESG principles outside of just carbon emissions which is a big focal point currently. The industry has had tunnel vision on carbon as the core ESG focus recently, but there’s actually 17 sustainable development goals. When you think of ESG more broadly, all of these contribute towards the CSR initiatives and ESG health of a business. We have worked with companies like Legacy Media, which provides comprehensive ESG scoring (across all principles) for the whole advertising industry; from big top of the chain companies, all the way down to small programmatic businesses. We partnered with them last year to start looking at what micro, end-of-the-chain areas we could have influence over beyond just a carbon emissions standpoint. Agencies and brands are starting to pay more attention to the broader ESG lens. The growth of this data and how it can be used for pitching or planning is beginning to influence how we are running our businesses more effectively in an ESG context. That’s where I see things heading anyway by applying the broader set of principles to business.

John: Slightly intuitively from a MiQ perspective, we are still very focused on carbon, environment and what we can influence. Biodiversity for example we can’t move the needle on but we do need to stay focused on areas that are firmly within our control. One other area I would call out is the responsible advertising space which we view as a sub-sector of ESG. We can actually make a big difference to society through responsible advertising best practices.


Q. If you were King and Queen for the day, what ESG policy would you decree?!

A. Debbi: Mine would be to set a minimum bio-diversity standard and automatically enforced. To ensure gardens and green spaces are being utilised correctly by everyone to avoid habitat loss. Although this doesn’t relate at all to anything we do, I think it’s important – unless we plant a wildflower for every impression we serve?!

John: As King of the world (going big), I would go for universal cross-border carbon pricing. Carbon is currently this invisible thing. Often if you’re an emitter of it you don’t have to pay for it – we need to create market forces to solve this problem. In a small way, this is what is starting to happen in programmatic media and we are starting to see the cost of carbon in our supply chain, but it would be amazing to do so long-term on a global scale.

I also think education is extremely important and something we haven’t yet touched on. I wouldn’t blame any brand for not knowing what is causing emissions or what they can do to reduce them through advertising campaigns and media buying. It is important now to bring more people with us on this journey and prove there is some significant stuff we can collectively resolve.

MiQ are a programmatic media partner. It drives business changing results with better connected marketing. It does more with your data to reach new customers, in new ways, wherever they are.

Talk To Us

Want to find out how you can accelerate growth? Drop us a line and our team will be in touch.