We all have a need to communicate – to share and consume information. For marketing and advertising professionals it is no longer a choice of how to spread dollars between print, radio and TV. The breadth of online options is simply staggering. Meanwhile, sustainability-minded media buyers are juggling a myriad of additional factors – along with cost effectiveness, their choices reflect consideration of environmental and social impacts.
I have often been asked to compare the environmental impact paper vs other media choices; e.g. e-books, electronic greeting cards or online billing vs paper based options. I have refused to embark on this type of comparative study for two basic reasons.
- because nobody “wins” in this type of analysis
- because nobody makes sound choices this way
In other words, no responsible CMO is going to care if an advertising campaign reduced water consumption or cut carbon emissions by 10% if half of the target audience didn’t receive the right message at the right time. The key to a successful campaign is to get the media choices right (most often through multiple platforms) and then design and execute responsibly within each channel.
Companies should buy and dispose of electronic equipment responsibly (tools like EPEAT can help). Good strategies for information storage and retrieval can reduce server loads and the associated environmental impact associated with the use of electronics.
Similarly, when putting ink on paper, it is important to source, use and dispose of materials properly (consider using EPAT or other paper procurement guidelines). Good list hygiene, right-sizing pieces and co-mailing can further reduce the environmental impact associated with printed materials.
It is time to stop pitting paper vs pixels and instead to focus on integrating media choices effectively. The ultimate goal of communications is to deliver the right message to the right person in a means that can be absorbed. Choose your channels for effectiveness and then design and implement with sustainability at top of mind.