Somer Simpson: I’m honored to be joined today by three fantastic people. So I’ve got Damian Benders, who is the General Manager of B Code Media. I’ve got Ki-Hoon Chung, who is the Integrated Media Director for agency WITHIN. And I also have Gonzalo Del Fa, who is the president of GroupM Multicultural. So I thought we’d just open it up and give you all an opportunity to introduce yourselves, talk a little bit about the role at your company and how your company tends to think about diversity, multicultural audiences, and Damien, let’s start with you.
Damian Benders: Hi Somer–thank you very much for having me. B Code Media is a new division of H Code Media, which was started six years ago to focus on the multicultural space. I joined the company in January 2021, in order to lead our expansion into the Black media space with B Code Media and very pleased to have spent the bulk of this year, building our capability in Hispanic and Black in order to truly actually create a multicultural opportunity that is both efficient and can achieve advertising reach and engagement at scale.
Gonzalo del Fa: So hey, how are you? I’m Gonzalo del Fa. I’m the president of GroupM Multicultural. Multicultural is not an afterthought or something that we bought at the end of the process is something that we built within the process from the moment that the teams are being briefed by the clients all the way down to the execution of all the campaigns.
Somer Simpson: Excellent. And Ki, tell us a little bit about what you do at WITHIN.
Ki-Hoon Chung: Thanks again for having me as well. As an Integrated Media Director at WITHIN, I would say, if I was to sum up what our company does for the brands that we work for, it’s really to turn long-term business objectives into translatable marketing programs. We really try to make sure that we’re thinking, you know, long-term business health, and then how can we make sure that the brands are talking to the right people? And when I say the right people, it really means a diverse set of audiences that they could resonate with. The entire topic of diversity and inclusion is core to, you know, just every day, like the communications, the conversations that we’re in. It really comes down to media plans, like the types of audiences that we’re advocating to reach, the types of campaign objectives that we’re trying to make happen for our clients. And then also from a creative, a messaging standpoint, making sure that the recommendations that we provide always think: how can we reach a diverse set of audiences and resonate with them as best as possible?
Somer Simpson: Excellent, thanks. So I know that a lot’s been going on over the past 18 months–I’ve run out of fingers to count those things on. How has diversity, like, come up? Has it come up more often?
Gonzalo del Fa: I think that the murder of George Floyd triggered a reaction from all the diverse groups and even, you know, the white America that things had to be more equal and everyone had to have the right representation and brands had to have a voice, in order to recognize that these audiences also exist and they also need to be marketed and they also need to be taken into account. It cannot be something that you just do, you know, 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.
Damian Benders: I think there’ve been a number of changes, that they have been coming for the last few years and in the last 18 months to two years really have reached sort of a fever pitch. From an advertiser and agency perspective, I think, you know, there’s been a shift in the tenor of the conversation and the amount of interest there is in really trying to reach a solution–this conversation around driving diversity, or creating representation opportunities, or being authentic isn’t exactly new. It’s been going on for years. Right now, I think what’s happening is there’s sort of a renewed interest in how to create actual solutions.
Somer Simpson: Right? And Ki, you had something to add on that one?
Ki-Hoon Chung: Over the past year, I would say, were just like the unfortunate incidents surrounding what led to the Black Lives Matter movement, what led to Stop Asian Hate–those kinds of events that made it so that it was okay to traverse into this uncomfortable territory that people typically in the past, like acknowledged–to Damien’s point–and knew that it was there, like a need to dive into this, but I don’t know if it was at the forefront of everyone’s minds. And what really happened over the last year is people are becoming more aware and it’s becoming more action-oriented, also. People are wanting to see brands act differently. People are wanting to interact with brands differently.
Somer Simpson: So let’s bring it to brass tacks a little bit, right? Because there’s the brand impact for brands in these kinds of programs, but let’s put it in terms of ROI, right? What are the benefits to brands to reaching these audiences and spending and supporting the communities where these audiences spend their time?
Damian Benders: At the end of the day, no matter how much we talk about this, this isn’t charity work, right? This is meaningfully engaging in the way that you have with mainstream audiences as a brand for years–with the multicultural audiences. There are tons of brands that exist today. We ask them directly: 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. And you’re seeing audiences shift where they are noticing that and saying, you know what, maybe I should try a different product that actually wants me to work with them.
Gonzalo Del Fa: I applaud all those companies really having or at least caring and having the right representation within their teams. As much as they care about that, they also 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, doing these because it’s a business imperative and it’s also a social imperative.
Somer Simpson: Ki, what are your thoughts on that?
Ki-Hoon Chung: You know, even thinking back to just like the advent of advertising, right? It’s like capturing the consumer’s minds, getting their attention, resonating with them, and building like an emotional bond between a brand and a consumer. When we’re talking about, for instance, creative and messaging, right, we’re talking about literally just making it more relatable, making it so that it’s a brand that when you first interact, for instance, consumers are like, oh, like, this is relatable for me. Like, I resonate well with this message, or the creative that they have in market, that kind of stuff. I think there’s an insurmountable value that you could add by just creating a brand identity around diversity and inclusion. That’s not just like ROI that you’re going to recoup in the immediate sense, because, you know, your ads are suddenly more resonating with customers, but more so just the way that you present your brand to consumers in the long-term and the goodwill that you build up by doing so.
Gonzalo del Fa: Marketing is not the same. Marketing has to be inclusive. And we’ve been talking about that for quite a while. I think that marketers are realizing that it has to be inclusive because you cannot ignore such a large portion of the population. If you think about today’s reality, multicultural audiences, diverse audiences represent more than 40% of the US. I feel very positive because I’ve seen a lot of brands coming in in the last 18 months. You can’t just assume that if you’re a luxury brand, you will not need Hispanics or black because they do not have the money to purchase your brand. Again, we’re not in 1970.
Somer Simpson: So what I’d like to understand, and we’ll start with Ki, and use some examples if you can, of stuff you’ve had success with in the past: what is advice that you would give to publishers in this particular space to help acquire more advertiser business through diverse audiences?
Ki-Hoon Chung: When we think about diversity in the ad campaigns, think about it from the perspective of you’re also trying to sell to the brands as well, I guess. So diversifying the different placements available, being more open about the different audiences that you’re able to reach: custom programs that they could do in partnership with a publisher directly, or just like a programmatic media buy that you could do by placing ads on the publisher’s inventory, whether it’s online or offline, that kind of stuff. Especially on the custom partnership side is where I feel like I’ve seen a lot of cool things happen, where brands like Nike, for instance, they’ve done a lot of campaigns where if you’re browsing through the internet, I’m sure you might’ve seen custom programming that they’ve done in partnerships with some very great BIPOC-owned companies and publishers, where they’re able to not just amplify their own message but also like shine a light on the publishers themselves.
Somer Simpson: Excellent, thanks, I dig that hat, by the way.
Ki-Hoon Chung: Swoosh!
Somer Simpson: And Damian, what about advice for marketers to reach publishers?
Damian Benders: You know, I’ll echo the sentiment that Ki just mentioned about sort of being creative, right? One of the things that’s really interesting around working with so many publishers: there really is an expertise and a connectedness, right, to the kinds of things that can work, that will work because they’re keeping their businesses afloat in order to do it. I think that there’s a real opportunity for innovation and a real opportunity for collaboration if we’re willing to trust one another on both sides of the pie–on the publisher side, on the advertiser side.
Somer Simpson: What more could we, as an ad ecosystem, be doing to deliver advertising to these audiences, to speak to these audiences, and to support the publishers that are a part of the community?
Ki-Hoon Chung: We’re just at the tipping point, we’re just at the starting point, I feel like. We have to continue pushing the boundaries of how we could push diversity and inclusion in the industry. So what more can we do? Let’s continue these kinds of conversations, let’s continue thinking about and being creative about the kinds of campaigns, activations, the way that brands are interacting with consumers, and then I think we could start talking about long-term: what are the newer things that we could start doing, the ability of advertisers and brands to actually reach the right people that they are intending to reach from a targeting perspective. Does it mean that they have to reach more consumers using contextual targeting? Do they have to focus in extra-heavily on creative messaging? I think those are the kinds of questions that we’re starting to ask ourselves too. I think more collaboration across the industry or around, like, future-proofing, knowing that certain things are definitely changing in the marketing industry, that kind of collaboration, I think, will be necessary.
Damian Benders: I think we, as an industry and as individual professionals, need to acknowledge and understand: it’s not going to happen overnight. There’s an overall sort of urgency that the entire industry is moving through, which I think we’re all really not only grateful for, but we feel like it’s the right time for. If we keep our eye on the fact that this country and the world is a continuingly more diverse place, and we’re looking to serve all of those people, represent all of those people, then it’s never really a ‘we’ve reached the apex’ or ‘we’ve reached the end.’
Gonzalo del Fa: We launched our media inclusion initiative, which was basically to have a clear and 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 to expand and include other minority-owned companies and have a minimum of at least 5% towards diverse-owned companies.
Somer Simpson: What’s the one thing that is blocking marketers right now from reaching these audiences at scale in the places that really matter to the audiences and their community?
Damian Benders: Philosophically, I think it’s knowledge, right? Now knowledge–it’s data; it’s access to understanding where there are gaps, where there’s an understanding of the audience, where they’re moving, how they’re moving.
Ki-Hoon Chung: It’s all based on short-term revenue, for instance. And when they have that mindset of only thinking about the short-term, they’re gonna dive into the tried and true, like, existing strategies without even thinking about what things can they do differently. And I think that’s typically what blocks brands from diving into diversity and inclusion, among many things.
Somer Simpson: How has Quantcast specifically helped you in your diversity journey or for your company?
Ki-Hoon Chung: You guys have been super open about coming up with ideas around, you know, diversity in marketing, where it really feels like a partnership and a collaboration in how we, like, come up with media plans together. One of the main value props of your guys’ platform is just the deep-rooted relationships that you guys have with publishers. Like who would be a good fit, who are the different kinds of publishers that we could work with? How do we best reach them? How do we best connect with them? So just the kind of audience insights and publisher insights that you guys are able to deliver to us has been really, really great in planning for marketing campaigns.
Somer Simpson: Great! I super appreciate all three of you participating today and sharing your insights and your thoughts, and here’s to the beginning of a long and hopefully successful journey towards improving the whole industry!