Navigating a Greener Path: Sustainable Digital Advertising in Pharma

Pharma brands are increasingly humanizing the patient journey today unlike ever before. The growing emphasis on more strategically aligning doctor data with patient advertising targeting is leading to better and more impactful experiences that more deeply consider the “why” behind how people approach their health.

But for pharma marketers, aligning operations with the ethos of health, well-being, and responsibility shouldn’t end with serving the right ads to consumers. They must extend that promise throughout the entire value chain—including mitigating the environmental impact those ads have on the very patients they’re trying to champion for. It’s a smart business strategy too; according to Deloitte, nearly one-third of consumers have stopped buying certain products due to ethical or environmental concerns.1 The pressure to inject sustainability into all business functions to ensure future success remains high.

Although digital advertising has historically been overlooked as a source of significant supply chain emissions, the reality is the sector relies on millions of servers to power real-time bidding, ad serving, machine learning, and the data transfer that supports creative downloads and published content. A single ad campaign can generate 70 tons of CO2 equivalent, about the same electricity usage for 14 homes a year.2 As pharma digital ad spend is projected to reach nearly $20 billion in 2024,3 the anticipated energy expenditure alongside this growth underscores the urgent need for a greener approach moving forward.

3 Ways to Go Green

For those looking to drive systemic change, consider these three tactics to more seamlessly integrate sustainability into digital advertising operations:

  • Tactical insight analysis: Analyze impressions for emissions, and conduct energy audits of data centers and other digital operations to understand electricity usage and identify efficiency opportunities. Regular use of online carbon calculators, access to sustainability dashboards through partnerships, and mapping against industry standards such as IAB’s Platform Carbon Impact can all lead to positive change.
  • Efficient creative implementation: Educate creative teams on sustainability factors so they can optimize assets towards reduced emissions. This includes using lightweight image and video files, lower resolutions, as well as other solutions like adaptive streaming which instantly delivers high-quality creative and only when actively consumed by users.
  • Optimized supply path selection: When looking to improve sustainability, it’s essential to focus on how digital media is bought. With an average of 146 paths per domain all leading to the same placement—the most direct path is often both more performant and sustainable. Supply path optimization tactics such as green exclusion lists, green private marketplaces (PMPs) optimized for key performance indicators (KPIs) with a direct path to the publisher, and more are key.

By proactively integrating eco-conscious strategies within digital advertising initiatives, pharma marketers can not only uphold their commitment to societal well-being but ensure the harmonious alignment of brand values and operational practices, paving the way for a more sustainable and beneficial future for all.





  • Catherine Pitman

    Catherine Pitman is Senior U.S. Product Manager at MiQ. Catherine leads end-to-end strategy for consumer and healthcare verticals for MiQ. Within the healthcare industry she has built agile data spines, planning & measurement platforms, and cookie-less activation models all with the intent to better align consumer, patient, and provider strategies.


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