Inclusive Media Buying Delivers Brand Safety and Growth | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

Inclusive Media Buying Delivers Brand Safety and Growth

By Jeremy Fain

Advertisers with DEI goals have focused on diversity, but inclusivity matters at least as much. The Linguistic Society of America defines inclusivity as language that acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences, and promotes equal opportunities. That definition can be applied to all forms of content, including images, and videos.

Take a timely example: A news article that reports on the increase in book bans in the U.S. is informative. An opinion article about why books depicting diverse characters should be banned is non-inclusive. To a human, the difference is obvious, but the difference does not translate well to a typical brand safety strategy that relies on keywords and URL lists. Rather than allow an ad to run next to the first article and block an ad from running next to the second article, many brands block both articles for fear of showing up in the wrong place.

Most media buying strategies are built by blocking sites, pages, and keywords, which is inherently exclusive. Inclusive media buying aggregates content rather than eliminates it. Brands gain several benefits from inclusive media buying. First, they achieve better brand safety. Second, they support their inclusivity goals. Third, they achieve growth.

Inclusive Brand Safety Is Safer

Exclusive media buying is a risk in its own right.

This blunt approach came into the spotlight in 2020 when major brand advertisers were taken to task for blocking terms like "Black Lives Matter" because of the potentially polarizing nature of some content. The IAB published their Brand Safety and Suitability Guide that year to encourage more brands to embrace brand suitability, an approach that favors nuance and inclusivity over blocking.

In practice, many brands have stuck to a keyword and list-based approach. Despite the push for change, many advertisers still block news sites and minority perspectives because of the risk of advertising against negative or politically charged content.

For brands with DEI goals, it is critical that they assess the inclusivity of their brand safety strategy and readjust to ensure that important content and diverse content is included. Brands are advised to balance brand safety with inclusivity in the WFA's Diversity & Representation Guide.

Inclusive Media Planning Supports the Right Content

Brands have DEI goals to include more diversity in their media plans, but the typical approach is limiting, with a focus on diversity over inclusion. While diversity ensures that all voices are represented, inclusivity ensures that no voice or individual is marginalized, which casts a wider net.

A study found that the primary DEI goal for advertisers is to spend with publishers, media partners and vendors owned by diverse leadership. A Washington Post report on a rise in book bans would still be deprioritized by these advertisers. Looking at content through a lens of inclusivity will help brands reclaim access to legitimate content and support more viewpoints.

There is good news for advertisers. In a recent internal study of 250,000 URLS, Cognitiv found that about 86 percent of pages are either inclusive or neutral content. That is, they do not exclude audiences. Only a minority of pages online are non-inclusive. The amount of truly non-inclusive content is much smaller than the amount of content that advertisers regularly block for "brand safety" reasons.

Grow with Inclusive Media Buying

An inclusive media buying approach unlocks previously and erroneously blocked content and reaches new audiences, which helps brands achieve growth in several ways. The tools many brands use today are not built for inclusivity, but that does not mean it is not possible. Making a change to include the right content is not just good for scale, it is also important to audiences. Consumers prioritize inclusivity, and ad placement on diverse content matters. Brands receive a 13 percent incremental revenue potential across all audiences when they feel included.

Inclusive media buying also translates into more flexibility and choice. New content means more selection, which can help bring down media costs. Brands can also achieve scale and reach target audiences more effectively. There is plenty of good content that is undersold. Brands can gain a competitive advantage if they embrace inclusive media buying early.

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.

Jeremy Fain is co-founder and CEO at Cognitiv.