Why marketing production is the missing piece in marketing’s sustainability push

To coincide its latest report 'Know to Grow', Tag’s CMO Helen Weisinger says brands need to recognise the positive impact marketing production can have in helping them meet ambitious sustainability goals

Helen Weisinger



In 2021, against a backdrop of ongoing disruption and increased pressure from government and consumers calling for change, we are seeing enormous momentum and action from businesses when it comes to tackling climate change. Brands from GSK to L’Oreal are making big commitments, and BrewDog is leading the pack as an already carbon negative business.

There is clearly appetite for change, from consumers and brands alike, and marketing has a vital role to play in this arena. Brand marketeers are experts in storytelling, and often marketing is communicating with consumers to help them make greener choices. But there is more to be done in this area. In Advertising Pays 8: The UK Advertising’s Social Contribution, published in January 2020, it was revealed that ‘the environment was rated the second highest issue that consumers want the advertising industry to tackle, after mental health’. Just 29% of the public thought that the environment is featured enough in advertising.

Just 29% of the public thought that the environment is featured enough in advertising

Advertising Pays 8

Many businesses are already working hard behind-the-scenes to get their green credentials in order, but one area often overlooked is the role marketing production can play in helping brands reduce their environmental impact.

When we talk about marketing production, we are referring to consumer touchpoints – all of the opportunities you have as a brand to build relationships with your customers. Everything you consume from a brand has been produced in some way. From the production of your TV advert, to the water bottles you give out at a media event, it can also include packaging of products and the supermarket display to support your new launch. Consumers expect the products they choose to be sustainably and ethically made and businesses know this and are creating products in this way. But why shouldn’t consumers expect the display stands they pick those products up from to be made sustainably too? It won’t be long until these questions come your way.

Production is a significant piece of our industry’s activity. Marketers looking to make sustainable gains therefore must review their production output and should be pushing their agency partners to keep the pressure up on the industry as a whole in order to meet the change of pace we need. In my view, the help agencies like Tag can provide brands in this space is one of the best kept secrets in the business.

One of the core challenges facing brands when making sustainable choices is inevitably cost. Last year Andria Vidler, CEO of Tag EMEA, hosted a panel discussion along with marketing strategist Mark Ritson at Festival of Marketing, where we discussed the major challenges facing CMOs and marketing professionals today. We ultimately kept returning to a central question: “How do I get the most out of my increasingly stretched budget?”

When it comes to sustainability, the assumption is often that the cheaper solution is not the most responsible. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Helen Weisinger, CMO, Tag

When it comes to sustainability, the assumption is often that the cheaper solution is not the most responsible. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Often, it can be as simple as stopping doing some things that just aren’t working. Identifying where you are wasting materials, time, and money can be one simple way to save without costing you a penny. You might think this is an area you are already on top of, but I would look hard to see whether you are sure that – at every touchpoint - waste isn’t taking place. We’ve helped a number of clients identify significant amounts of waste in their point-of-sale materials for example, which has helped save a sizeable amount of product waste whilst saving the pennies.

Once you’ve identified those gains, it’s then time to look elsewhere. At Tag, we are always investigating the latest cutting-edge technologies and techniques that can help brands make cost and carbon savings. These can be simple - for example, embedding 3D-modelling technology into your package design process as an easy way to reduce wastage of prototypes before you land on a design. Or brands can invest in recyclable point-of-sale displays that are easy to refresh for each new campaign, avoiding huge amounts of wasted material. This is exactly what we developed for O2’s most recent Christmas displays, increasing recyclability of the products by an incredible 99.98% and reducing carbon emissions from the campaign by 78% - an estimated 51 tonnes of carbon.

Marketing production specialists like Tag can help brands make huge efficiencies and sustainability savings across the entirety of their output. And where the sustainable option does cost more, can you look to make savings elsewhere from the business that can go towards covering those costs - creating in effect a greener cost pot?

Embedding a reuse-recycle culture does not have to mean compromising on quality either. Covid-19 restrictions have shown that brands can happily adapt to remote shooting, and can re-use and recycle material far more successfully than they might have imagined. Now, brands are using CGI to create those sunny scenes that two years ago would have been shot in South Africa. This is a great result for avoiding carbon heavy flights abroad, with remarkable results. Take the learnings from a recent Bacardi spot shot by our US partners 1st Avenue Machine, where not a single person turned up on set. As the characters were real flatmates, it’s the first spot we are aware of with zero associated travel. This shows that great work can be achieved with minimal traveling to shoots.

Something we have heard loud and clear in our conversations with marketers is that knowing where to start is one of the biggest hurdles. Embedding sustainability across every part of your business can feel like a huge challenge, but even making small, incremental changes in marketing production can have a big impact.

For brands who want to do more, or for those at the start of this road, Tag has devised a three-step approach to help them achieve sustainable marketing production.

The first step is diagnose and plan

Use a third-party to assess your carbon impact. This could be a carbon foot-printing expert and we can also do this at Tag. Looking at your whole business from start to finish will help you identify where the opportunities lie. Planning is key here. Setting out with a sustainable approach in mind from the outset will help ensure all of your output is designed with green savings in mind, and will help you identify waste and surface opportunities for savings.

The second step is to embrace innovation

Demand constant updates from your partners about the new innovations coming every day. What’s next? How do we access it? And what will the benefits be? And don’t forget to ask about long-term cost savings.

The third step is test and track

As with other operational sustainability measures, you will have started in your big problem areas – whether that is packaging or advertising production. If you are trying new tech for the first time, test how it’s going before you roll out to other areas of your business. Lastly, track and measure like mad to identify what is working for you.

Finally, it is crucial for us all to share knowledge on best practice. We have an industry responsibility to bring marketing and marketing production into line, and there are great initiatives taking place with brilliant brands and creative, savvy talent trialing new methods every day.

At Tag we’re committed to sharing what we know and pushing ourselves to drive innovation further. Tackling a challenge as big as the climate crisis will take a collective effort to make the sizable changes needed. As one of the most dynamic, creative and communicative industries, let’s demonstrate just what we can do.

Download Tag's latest report, Know to Grow, now

Guest Author

Helen Weisinger



An accidental new business and marketing careerist, Helen Weisinger has spent the lion’s share of her career driving growth for creative agencies, including DLKW (now Mullen Lowe), TBWA, Fallon London, Dare and The Portas Agency to name but a few. Transferring her growth skills to DOOH, she moved to media owner OutdoorPlus in 2016 where she worked with advertisers and agencies to showcase the benefits of the channel, before its acquisition by Global in 2019. She joined Tag in March 2020 as Chief Marketing Officer, just as we entered our first lockdown. Unfazed, she has navigated Tag through the turbulent Covid-19 pandemic and has been instrumental in the reorganisation of the business, which has brought together satellite businesses and expertise to give Tag’s clients better access to the many multiple services the global production powerhouse offers. More recently, Tag has adopted a leadership position in sustainable marketing production, stewarded by Helen.

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