Sustainable Sonics: Carbon-Neutral Advertising Takes Root on Spotify

Digital audio consumption has taken off in recent years as consumers spend more time listening to music and podcasts as part of their daily routines. From Songs to Sing in the Shower to help pump you up for the day, to an episode of Crime Junkie to zone out with on your morning walk, time spent with digital audio increased 8.3% in 2020, with the average consumer streaming 1 hour and 29 minutes per day (eMarketer). Advertisers have taken notice and have tapped into Spotify and our streaming intelligence to reach these highly engaged audiences. 

As Spotify’s reach with advertisers continues to grow, we’ve started to examine ways we can offset the environmental footprint of our ads. One of Spotify Advertising’s teams, the Creative Collective, was formed earlier this year to cultivate some of these new opportunities for advertisers. Amanda Hoyle, a Creative Strategist on the team, dug into her own lifelong passion and interest around sustainability and environmentalism to help lead the charge in creating Spotify’s newest ad offering: Sustainable Sonics

Sustainable Sonics enables brands to make their music and podcast advertising fully carbon neutral (or in other words, to have net-zero carbon impact by balancing out the carbon emissions by funding an equivalent amount of carbon savings elsewhere in the world) on Spotify for one year. 

For the Record grabbed time with Amanda to learn more about her role in creating the offering, how it works, and the larger opportunity around environmentally conscious options in the audio advertising world.  

What is the role of the Creative Collective advertising team at Spotify?

We essentially work with advertisers to unlock, create, celebrate, and inspire ideas worth listening to—and that’s really our guiding principle and mission statement. The Creative Collective team is a network of strategists around the world focusing on creative excellence in advertising, with a particular interest in audio. The way we see it, the creative potential of audio is endless, and we’ve only just scratched the surface so far. 

Amanda Hoyle

How did the idea for “Sustainable Sonics” come to be?

Sustainable Sonics has been a labor of love that started about two years ago. It was born out of the realization that everything we do, whether we’re a consumer, a creator, or a brand, has an impact on the environment. With this in mind, I started to notice that the ad industry as a whole was focused solely on the environmental impact of traditional advertising, like TV and billboards, but hadn’t yet started to examine the impact of digital advertising, or audio in particular. 

When we embarked on the journey of Sustainable Sonics, we were essentially looking to understand What is the environmental impact of audio advertising? We conducted research internally that suggests that digital audio’s advertising carbon footprint is significantly lower than other forms of advertising, but we knew we could take it a step further by offering carbon offsets to minimize the impact of our audio advertisements altogether. 

The question then changed to What can we at Spotify actually do about it? We commissioned a sustainability audit and began to explore new avenues to offset the impact of audio advertising, which ultimately brought us to Sustainable Sonics, as we know it today.

How does the carbon offset program work?

When a brand buys into Sustainable Sonics, we’ll plant enough trees to offset the environmental impacts of all of their audio advertising on Spotify for one year. We’re making a green form of advertising even greener.

This week, we’re launching with our first advertising partner, O2. For each new audio spot that listeners hear for the next year on Spotify from O2, we’ll plant approximately 50 trees in forests around the world.

The impact of Sustainable Sonics doesn’t just stop with our launch partner, O2, either. It actually goes way further. Sustainable Sonics will be available in the U.S., U.K., and Canada—and hopefully more markets in the future—which means that other brands will have access to carbon-neutral audio advertising on Spotify in these markets as well. It’s super cool to think that the impact of Sustainable Sonics can go far and wide, as there’s potentially no limit on the number of trees that we can plant and no limit on the amount of carbon that we can offset. 

Why should advertisers get involved? 

When you distill it down: because consumers care. Spotify Advertising’s 2020 Culture Next Report says, “68% of Gen Zs and Millennials say brands need to play a more meaningful role in society.” That really, really stuck out to me. Brands should act with sustainability in mind not only because it’s good for the planet, but because it’s good for business as well. Consumers really care about this issue, and so by being able to walk the walk and talk the talk, you can reach consumers in an authentic way. 

Why is this initiative important for Spotify? What is the opportunity here?

Sustainable Sonics shows that digital audio is a powerful advertising medium that can be a canvas for creativity and innovation. We hope that Sustainable Sonics helps move the needle, demonstrating to brands around the world the power of audio creativity. It’s also exciting to think about how we can make the opportunity even bigger and really start to think about sustainability in advertising even more.

What do you like to listen to when you want to connect with nature?

Being at home this past year, I’ve absolutely loved exploring Spotify’s Nature Hub, finding new ways to feel like I’m connecting to nature and the world around me. My current favourite is the playlist Meditate to the Sounds of Nature. Just let it play and zen out as you connect to nature through soundscapes from different environments and ecosystems around the world. 

I’ve also been listening to BBC Earth, and recently loved the “Artists of the Animal Kingdom” episode. It’s a brilliant episode that compares the animals in the jungle to musical artists. 

Stream one of Amanda’s favorite playlists, Meditate to the Sounds of Nature, below.