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Creative Brands Can Find Scale on Black-Owned Content

By Maria Teresa Hernandez

Madison Avenue commitments to Black-owned media are continuing strong in 2023. But scale is the biggest challenge advertisers are up against. There are several changes buyers can make to beat the scale problem, reach Black and multicultural audiences, and send more ad revenue to independent multicultural publishers.

Major holding companies are doubling down on their investments, powered by widely publicized initiatives like dentsu's Economic Empowerment Offering and GroupM's Media Inclusion Initiative. These initiatives are aimed at combating inequities within the investment of media buying. One common refrain is that there's not enough inventory to go around. More than 40 percent of the U.S. population identifies with a race or ethnic group other than white, yet the vast majority of mainstream media is not developed for these audiences specifically.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, 13.6 percent of the U.S. population is Black, for example, but Black-owned media represents less than 1 percent of the total inventory available across TV and digital. What's more, the traditional media buying channels like programmatic exchanges favor the larger publishers that do not have much content that appeals to Black, Hispanic or other culturally specific audiences.

Forge Smart Partnerships

Some brands like P&G have publicly announced that they want to work with a more diverse set of publishers and even invest in more content development, with their "Widen the Screen" initiative. Many other advertisers should reconsider how they buy media to find more diverse content – as there are many small things that add up to a big problem for independent publishers.

For example, brands typically send out huge RFPs that many smaller publishers can't compete for due to limited resources. Brands also have required publishers to be officially certified or registered as Black-Owned or other similar certifications, which is a costly, time-consuming process. Making the barrier to entry a bit lower could make the industry more inclusive.

One approach that is already gaining momentum is to bring technology to smaller publishers so that they can compete for advertising demand where the brands are today – such as programmatic media. BOMESI, the Black-Owned Media Equity Sustainability Institute, is a nonprofit that has been partnering with companies like Fabrik (owned by Kargo) to enable smaller publishers to participate in ad auctions.

Partnerships that bring buyers a vetted group of publishers can also clear some hurdles. Charter announced that they will expand carriage of a host of different content networks with "African-American themed content" including Revolt TV and CLEO TV. CafeMedia partnered with Colossus SSP, which focuses on diverse audiences, in order to make it easier for brands to reach specific audiences at scale and bring more ad spend to a broader set of publishers. At Mirriad, we've created a Multicultural Marketplace for the same reason – to make it easy for brands to reach specific multicultural audiences.

Find a New Path

Yes, automated display and video advertising is scalable, but it's certainly not the only way to reach audiences on Black-owned and other multicultural content. In the past, brands had to put a lot of time and effort into sponsorships, product placements, and other custom deals that got their brand in front of audiences outside the traditional advertising channels, but that's changing.

Virtual product placement uses AI-powered digital effects to insert brands into targeted TV, Digital, film and music programming after it's been filmed, instantly creating new inventory to fill the supposed gap – which means it can be deployed at scale.

Kantar recently released a whitepaper highlighting consistent results over a three year study of virtual product placement, showing that it delivers a lift in key performance metrics that is significantly higher than traditional ad types, and that it helps lift the performance of other ads.

New advertising technologies also make it easier for brands to "buy media" at scale that was never included on a typical media plan – but was rather considered part of sponsorship or other bespoke deals. With the dominance of social media and influencers, it's no surprise that according to Nielsen Scarborough, Black adults were 71 percent more likely to buy products endorsed by influencers on social media. Music videos are not too far behind in offering massive Black viewership. With VPP, advertisers can seamlessly weave into upcoming releases and planned social content without needing to have product on set.

Each initiative and each headline talking about how advertising is evolving to help connect brands and publishers to reach diverse audiences adds up. The good news is that some Black-owned publishers are starting to see growth. If brands and publishers embrace new processes, new technologies and new initiatives, we can get to a place where ad dollars flow fairly and content is representative of our people.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Maria Teresa Hernandez is VP of brand partnerships at Mirriad, driving virtual brand placement campaigns in TV, streaming, digital, and music content for the world's top brands. She also spearheads Mirriad's growing Multicultural Marketplace, which unlocks in-content inventory with diverse media owners and creators, at scale.