During the pandemic, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities have been hit especially hard. From higher rates of unemployment to elevated risks from COVID-19, the disproportionate impact on these groups reflects the economic and social disparities in our society. These racial inequities have always existed, but the extra challenges of the past year have brought more visibility to the struggles of the BIPOC community with protest movements like Black Lives Matter, Stop AAPI Hate, and The BIPOC Project. As these realities are more widely acknowledged, we have seen a desire to go beyond recognizing the continuing effects of systemic and structural racism to take action–not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk.
Over the course of the last year and a half, we’ve seen brands take a stance by participating in media blackouts and boycotts, showing solidarity in their social media messages, philanthropic partnerships, and charity funding. But what sustainable steps within the media community can we take that will make a long-term difference?
At WITHIN, we work to differentiate ourselves by becoming trusted partners of everyone with whom we interact. For the brands that we work with, this means that we’re not simply looking to sell products or hit their marketing goals, but to truly ingrain ourselves in the brands themselves to push for sustainable long-term growth. When thinking about championing the BIPOC community, we take the same approach in committing to represent and support them in authentic ways.
While there’s never a one-size-fits-all solution, we can start by making conscious choices that support and empower the BIPOC community. For myself, that means using my role in three ways: (1) invest with intent, (2) connect with creative, and (3) reach with results.
- Invest With Intent
Going beyond ‘talking the talk’ in their ad campaigns, many companies also ‘walk the walk’ by using their buying power to invest in owned and operated BIPOC properties; they commit to diversity and equity in media spend. Recently, WPP announced a $75 million target to diversity where ad dollars are spent; Coca-Cola North America plans to double its media spend with minority-owned companies over the next three years, after already increasing their spend more than five-fold compared to 2020; IPG Mediabrands committed to investing a minimum of 5% in Black-owned media channels in aggregate across all clients by 2023.
These companies are taking a proactive stance, as expressed by Proctor & Gamble’s Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard, who announced that his company would also mandate a certain percentage of their budget toward minority-owned media: “We’re working to eliminate systemic investment inequalities by directly reaching out to Black-Hispanic-Asian-Pacific-Native-American-owned and operated media providers to give them full access to P&G.” This commitment to investing in BIPOC-owned properties is one way to address and rectify inequity.
Nike is another brand that has shown a demonstrable commitment to supporting the BIPOC community not only through their ad campaigns, but with monetary investments as well. Over the past five years, they invested $417 million to drive a positive impact around the world; $130 million was earmarked to “advance equality and level the playing field for all.” In 2020, they pledged $40 million over four years to invest in and support organizations that address racial inequality and fight for social justice and education in America; one of their investments supports economic empowerment for black and brown women-identifying entrepreneurs through a partnership with Black Girl Ventures.
While this economic power can be powerful, marketers should be mindful of how they’re approaching it to avoid performative allyship. The value exchange between marketers and publishers must be beneficial to both: BIPOC properties gain opportunities to scale and grow, and brands gain more marketing options and the ability to connect better with audiences. And when brands have a positive and uplifting story to share, audiences also benefit from receiving that message.
- Connect With Creative
One of the facets of WITHIN’s performance branding principles is the concept of personalized creatives. The idea behind this approach is that the creatives that are utilized in a marketing campaign should be varied and personalized to the different audiences that one is trying to reach, so that emotional connections are built through relevant messaging. While the easiest way to think about this is through the lens of product, value props, or copy, we must also incorporate diversity and inclusion into every facet of these initiatives.
Having diversity in the cast that’s tapped for creatives and campaigns seems like a natural step for any brand (not just those looking to support minority communities) that wants to promote diversity and inclusion and show the world for how it really is–and yet we’ve seen brands take missteps in not doing so. Hiring minority content creators and partners / influencers is another way to authentically engage and empower these communities outside of direct media investments.
Outside of these steps, one way that we can approach campaigns from a creative perspective to support the BIPOC community is through telling stories that empower them. Nike is a positive example of a brand that develops ad campaigns that give voice to the stories and struggles of individual members of the BIPOC community. According to Nike, “2021 is not about product. It’s about advocacy and action, listening to Black athletes and using the platform sport creates to drive meaningful change.” Nike highlights the stories of indigenous athletes, artists, and healers in their Wellness in Motion series and Black athletes in their Common Thread series, who share how sports have changed their lives and how they have then changed the world around them.
With creative and messaging being the primary way that brands interact and develop relationships with the everyday consumer, connecting with the BIPOC community through creative–from how they appear and how they’re created to what they’re telling us–is certainly an approach that we should be thinking about.
- Reach With Results
Working with Quantcast, WITHIN has been able to reach BIPOC audiences in the US with experiential content, wherever they spend time online. While brands create long-form 60-second videos to tell their story, these can pose a challenge when it comes to digital advertising. Our team was able to activate these long-form videos, reaching relevant audiences while investing in BIPOC-owned publishers–and achieve further scale with shorter :15 and :30 second videos as well as display ads highlighting these stories. With a machine learning and AI engine, the Quantcast Platform allows us to reach audiences with more scale, optimizing outcome and insights. Its ability to take links and test them gives us confidence that our ads are connecting with specific audiences.
Taking on a supportive approach in planning and buying media–and being results-oriented in how we’re evaluating the success of the campaigns–can help bridge the gap in creating a program that not only feels like it’s working to empower the BIPOC community, but actually does that by reaching and impacting the right audiences.
Again, while these three steps aren’t meant to be the end-all-be-all solution, they serve as a framework to guide brands in taking the right steps to become inclusive and supportive of the BIPOC community. In a world where the inequalities and hardships that people face get frequently glossed over, I hope that we can encourage individuals, communities, and even brands to adopt a culture of empowerment and support as the norm.