Collective Performance’s journey to sustainability
Our performance marketing agency shares how we're helping clients on a journey to carbon-neutral media.
Julian Smilg
Associate Strategy Director

Earlier this year we launched Collective Performance, a green media agency designed to help existing and prospective clients on their way to a carbon-neutral media solution.

The advertising industry is often at the sharp end of the climate crisis, with agencies facing criticism for taking on unsustainable clients and contributing to an ecosystem of consumerism. Yet equally the industry is also well placed to change behaviours and encourage clients to do better.

According to Liam Scott, Performance Marketing Lead at Collective Media, striving to help clients do better was one of the reasons Collective Performance was created. The B Corp-certified business aims to help clients on a carbon-neutral media journey, knowing that while perfection won’t happen straight away, helping to educate clients to operate more sustainably can contribute to a more sustainable industry overall.

A journey to sustainability

Collective Performance offers paid media, SEO, CX, CRO, social, distribution and analytics, run through partnerships with sustainable tech, media platforms and companies that offer green solutions. It is investing in research and development to create new performance marketing tools and find more AdTech partners to partner with to help monitor, measure and mitigate the carbon footprint of digital media. The research will also help the company make more proactive recommendations for its clients.

For clients, in practice, this means setting out on a journey to becoming more sustainable and Scott explains this begins with education.

There’s a big issue around media and the carbon impact that media is having on the planet, but there’s a lot of misdirection, miscommunication, people saying one thing and others saying others.


Liam Scott, Performance Marketing Lead

“There’s a big issue around media and the carbon impact that media is having on the planet, but there’s a lot of misdirection, miscommunication, people saying one thing and others saying others about what the impact actually was,” says Scott. He continues: “I was surprised at the lack of awareness past just the creative element, at first when introducing this to our clients. We were so unaware of how unaware they were of the impact of media buying.”

The process begins with an initial research and understanding phase to outline the impact of media. Yet even with this understanding the agency faces the challenge of shifting client mindset to be focused on people and planet as well as profit.

“Stage 2 is media-neutral planning which is [about] changing mindsets. The most challenging part is challenging the mindset from maximising results to showcasing how media-neutral results don’t really impact things in a negative way from a results side either,” adds Scott.

Some clients find it harder to overcome these challenges than others.” adds Julian Smilg, Strategy Director at Collective. He continues: “We don’t have all of the answers, don’t think we ever will but the ones that are willing to be helped we take on that journey.”

In a practical sense, this journey is made up of several different facets. “From creative production, trying to push more sustainable and less production-heavy creative through design-build production. A digital sphere, taking an approach through web tech and building sites more sustainably, through to adtech,” says Scott. “We are joining the dots together using creative, media and tech in a more sustainable way by reducing payloads, production time and carbon impact from media buying. It’s a joined-up effort,” he adds.

Balancing profit, planet and people

In a cost-of-living crisis, sustainability can get pushed off the agenda as some brands choose to cut corners to stay afloat amidst inflation. Scott explains: “It’s affected everyone, there’s more visualisation on costs and results but that hasn’t changed the mindset, there’s still an agenda on planet, people, diversity and inclusion and responsibility.”

Smilg insists that the most creative brands that are able to balance profit, planet and people are the most prosperous. “It’s interesting to see which of our clients have leaned into our support and used creativity to help avoid fighting a battle on price. A race to the bottom can lead to cutting corners on quality,” he explains, adding: “They’ve been trying to support their customers and be sensitive to that without trying to make it all about price and price-only messaging.”

Smilg maintains that even in the cost of living crisis, clients are under pressure from consumers to think planet first. “So many of our clients are seeing increasing pressure from their own customer base to have strong purpose-based activity. Where previously it might have just been from middle-class, London-centric customers, that’s now disseminating far and wide,” he adds.

So many of our clients are seeing increasing pressure from their own customer base to have strong purpose-based activity.


Julian Scott, Strategy Director

A people-first approach

Beyond pressure from consumers, across the industry talent is also making sustainability a priority and looking to work in places where the planet is a focus.

Collective underwent a journey to be B-Corp to solidify its internal beliefs and showcase its commitment to sustainability.

All of the B-Corp values are things that we would try to live by any way but the fact there is a framework everyone agrees and understands helps us decide how to prioritise things and how to communicate that and talk about it in a way that customers, employees, partnership will understand,” adds Scott. The certification is a signifier to talent and potential clients that sustainability is a priority.

The agency also looks to industry initiatives and trade bodies such as Scope3 on the media buying side to hold publishers to account and Ad Net Zero for carbon calculators to facilitate measurement. Pushing together as an industry for positive change and using resources to help clients on their journeys to sustainability.

By helping to shift mindsets and approach sustainability as a learning opportunity, the agency is able to help clients at any step of their journeys. A commitment that contributes towards the wider industry push to strive for better, even in the midst of fierce economic headwinds.

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