The Quantcast Platform was built to connect brands, agencies, and publishers with the audiences that matter to them. These audiences that matter have always been a diverse and multicultural assortment of individuals, not a homogenous entity, and yet the advertising industry has only recently begun to prioritize inclusion and representation. Given that 40% of the US population is made up of racial or ethnic minorities, it’s time for advertising to reflect those demographics and reach individuals with messages that uniquely speak to them. To address what can and should be done to power–and empower–diverse and multicultural voices in advertising, I hosted a panel discussion with Damian Benders (General Manager at B Code Media), Gonzalo Del Fa (President at GroupM Multicultural), and Ki-Hoon Chung (Integrated Media Director at WITHIN) at our Virtual NOVA event.
These multicultural, digital media experts share my personal commitment to embedding diversity into the future of advertising. We’ve identified three ways advertisers can evolve their strategies to drive meaningful and positive change in the industry and help promote equality and a level playing field for all.
- Commit to reaching diverse audiences with authentic and impactful messaging that makes them feel seen. Gonzalo broke it down to basics: “Marketing has to be inclusive because you can’t ignore such a large portion of the population.” We need to “keep our eye on the fact,” Damian added, “that this country and the world is a continually more diverse place, and we’re looking to serve all of those people and represent all of those people.” You can do so by “meaningfully engaging” with multicultural audiences “in the way that you have with mainstream audiences as a brand for years.” That means, as a start, not making stereotypical assumptions about different ethnicities, as Gonzalo pointed out: “You can’t just assume that if you’re a luxury brand, you will not need Hispanics or Blacks because they do not have the money to purchase your brand. It’s not 1970.” Damian surveys multicultural audiences, asking, “Do you feel like this brand is for you? Do you think they want you to be a customer? Do you think they understand you? And invariably, with Black and Hispanic audiences in particular, the answer to that question is no. You’re seeing an audience shift, where they are noticing and saying, ‘You know what? Maybe I should try a different product that actually wants to work with me.’”
Advertising should speak to these audiences in a way that makes them feel seen–recognized and valued as a customer. Gonzalo’s approach starts from the ground up: “Multicultural is not an afterthought: it is something built within the process from the moment that teams are being briefed by the clients all the way down to the execution of all the campaigns.” Ki takes the same approach: “The entire topic of diversity and inclusion is core to every day.” From a messaging standpoint, his recommendations for creative seek to address: “How can we reach a diverse set of audiences and resonate with them as best as possible?” For Damian, the answer is “data,” which allows you “to understand the audience as much as possible because we believe that’s where authenticity really comes from.”
The commitment to diversity and inclusion needs to be authentic as well, not just a token gesture of “pink-washing” or “rainbow-washing” for profit. While brands can undeniably benefit from reaching these diverse audiences and supporting these communities, consumers are looking for consistency. Gonzalo asserts, “It cannot be something that you just do once a year for Hispanic Heritage Month or for Pride Month, it has to be a full year-on initiative; it has to be part of their marketing campaign; it has to be part of their budgets.”
- Challenge social norms and classic approaches to advertising on the open internet. Advertising has always been about “capturing the consumers’ minds, getting their attention, resonating with them, and building an emotional bond between a brand and a consumer,” Ki explained. But many marketers are still not prioritizing reaching diverse and multicultural audiences at scale in the places that really matter to them and their community. Ki believes that these marketers have a short-term mindset, in which they “dive into the tried and true existing strategies without even thinking about what things they can do differently,” instead of diving into diversity and inclusion meaningfully. He encourages marketers to take a long-term perspective, developing creative messaging that is relatable and builds a sense of goodwill toward the brand. Rather than measuring success by return on investment (ROI), consider the “insurmountable value that you could add by just adding a brand identity around diversity and inclusion.”
Ki recommends thinking outside the box to be creative about the ways that brands interact with consumers. Nike is a brand that is successful in developing ad campaigns that give voice to the stories of individual athletes within the BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) and LGBTQ+ communities. They have also been particularly innovative with custom programming. This atypical approach allows them to promote their brand in a positive way to multicultural audiences. For example, Nike created the “Future Movement (FM)” series, which brings together athletes and artists to discuss “Black and Asian solidarity, advocacy, and action, [and] how staying proactive leads to long-lasting change.”
- Pivot media dollars toward minority-owned-and-operated publishers and media companies at scale. Gonzalo pushes companies to take their commitment to diversity further: “They need to think about multicultural marketing and also have the right representation, the right budgets, the right commitment–and not do these because it’s checking a box [but] because it’s a business imperative and also a social imperative.” GroupM Multicultural serves as an example: they launched their own media inclusion initiative with “a clear public commitment to spend on minority-owned companies. We started with a minimum of 2% on black-owned media, and we are now recommending our clients expand and include other minority-owned companies and have a minimum of at least 5% towards diverse-owned companies.” Damian’s company, B Code Media, is also committed to diversifying media spend with minority-owned publishers. Launched six years ago by H Code Media to expand their reach from Hispanic audiences to Black audiences in the US, B Code connects brands and agencies with a network of premium Black publishers.
Partnering with BIPOC-owned companies and publishers enables brands not only to “amplify their own message,” Ki explained, “but also shine a light on the publishers themselves.” Damian encouraged marketers to think creatively about working closely with these publishers: “There’s a real opportunity for innovation and collaboration, if we’re willing to trust one another on both sides of the pie–on the publisher side, on the advertiser side.” With this kind of partnership, both sides benefit: marketers diversify their ad placements and develop their brand identity, while publishers acquire more advertising business and create content that will connect with a more diverse audience.
Diversity and Inclusion in Advertising
Consumers are paying attention and expect more from the brands they support. They want to see themselves reflected in the advertising world; they want brands to support diverse and multiethnic communities; and they will take action as a result. According to a 2019 consumer survey by the Female Quotient (in partnership with Google and Ipsos), 65% of people are more likely to consider, or even purchase, a product after seeing an ad they consider diverse or inclusive. That percentage rises among specific consumer groups, including Latinx+ (85%), Black (79%), Asian/Pacific Islander (79%), LGBTQ (85%), millennial (77%), and teen (76%) consumers. This shift in consumer behavior is significant.
Advertising is evolving, and we can be at the forefront of change to make simply smarter and more meaningful connections. This is a personal mission for me, and I’m fortunate to be at Quantcast, where my team can explore advancements in this area, and I can follow my passion. It was an honor to host this panel with Damian, Gonzalo, and Ki, as we embark on the beginning of a long and hopefully successful journey towards improving the advertising industry.
And on a personal note to all brands out there looking to connect with their existing and future customers: as a lesbian, this is important to me. Do you know why I–and my friends and my friends’ friends–started drinking Skyy and driving Subarus in the 90s? (Not at the same time of course!) It’s because those brands spoke to us in our language, from within the media we read that was owned and operated by people from our community. They made us feel seen and heard. We may not have been the majority of new business for those brands, but we definitely gave them a boost in growth and retention.
You can watch our full panel discussion at Quantcast’s Virtual NOVA. And if you missed it, you’ll want to check out Ki’s recent contribution to our blog, Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk: 3 Sustainable Steps to Support the BIPOC Community. You can also read Beyond Pride Month: Supporting the LGBTQIA+ Community Year-Round.