Sustainability was a priority for the organisers of the inaugural UK Creative Festival (UKCF) this year, who purposefully did not allow sponsors to give out unsustainable merch and encouraged visitors to bring their own reusable water bottles across the two day event.


Sustainability is of course a topic that has been accelerated following the global pandemic, and so taking to the stage in the Ballroom at Dreamland Margate on day two of the festival, Little Black Book (LBB) brought together Travlrr’s Darren Khan, the APA’s Steve Davies and our Divisional Director Steve Pitts to discuss tangible ways our industry can continue to take good practice forward into the future.


Kicking off the talk, Darren Khan explains Travlrr’s offering, a global network of directors on the ground who shoot live plates for advertising, minimising the amount of crew travel. The work is supported by CGI from MPC and carbon offset by planting trees. He demonstrated a case study with Land Rover which used this method of production (with local crew shooting plates in Iceland and MPC creating the car in CGI) and the project resulted in 83% less carbon emissions and 33% less cost.


Following the film, Steve Davies noted that we are at a critical and exciting point in becoming more sustainable in production. He notes that AdGreen is now part of the Ad Association meaning that all scripts will be judged on their “environmental impact as well as their creative fire power”.


Steve Pitts added that adverts themselves are communicating their sustainability more often and that the demand is coming down from brands to create content sustainably, saying that at Tag more contracts are coming in from clients which contain sustainability clauses as standard. Positively the panel concurred that brands are educating themselves and investing in better CSR. However it was noted by Darren that its not currently easy for consumers to know if ads have been shot sustainably and that talks are currently underway with Clearcast to create a consumer facing message or symbol to indicate if an ad is made to a sustainable standard.


When it comes to how early in the process brands need to consider sustainable action, Darren says “It has to start when the pen hits the paper” and doing this as early as possible was concurred by all panelists.


Looking to the future of production Steve Pitts explained brands can completely change the way they shoot ads, pointing to a making of film for Bacardi in which Tag had shot an ad during lockdown, ingeniously teaching actors to dress their own set (their home) and set up lighting, before directing them remotely.


Darren does note that remote shooting and some solutions won’t work for all productions but that the pandemic has sparked new behaviours, “big ads will most likely be done in the traditional way but I think sustainability [and remote shooting] is here to stay now”. Steve Davies nods to virtual production as another solution we will start to see more of and the panel concur it may finally be the push agencies need to pick new and different and exciting directing talent.


In terms of tangible steps companies can take, the panel suggest using the carbon calculator by Ad Green and doing their free training session, noting it can help you find quick ways to drastically reduce your carbon footprint as a business. Steve also notes the importance of educating not just the operational side of businesses but the creative side too. Something that would help get sustainable thinking happening earlier in the process.