For Diversity in Advertising to Stick, It Must Be Considered in More Places | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

For Diversity in Advertising to Stick, It Must Be Considered in More Places


Corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals are encountering challenges due to economic pressures and a recent Supreme Court ruling to cease affirmative action. Consequently, certain companies with a short-term perspective are diminishing their emphasis on DEI, and this trend is extending to DEI in advertising. The repercussions are evident in recent data from Paramount, which finds a significant decline in the percentage of Black and Hispanic individuals represented in advertising.

These events might lead to an assumption that DEI was just a temporary trend and that advertisers will now simply go back to "business as usual." However, leading companies like P&G and Microsoft have stood by their pledges and remain committed to their DEI efforts because they know that it's the right thing to do regardless of the economic or political whims they face.

Moreover, "business as usual" is changing. The data proves it. Hispanics make up about 1 in 5 people in the U.S. today and are forecast to make up 28 percent of the population by 2060. The percentage of adults who identify as LGBTQ+ in the U.S. has increased to 7.1 percent. Despite economic headwinds, diverse audiences are also increasing their buying power, Black Americans will increase their total spending power from $1.6 trillion to $1.8 trillion in 2024.

With ever-higher revenue goals amidst inflation and a stagnant economy, DEI isn't just valuable for our society, it's essential for business. An Amazon study found that globally, over 70 percent of consumers expect brands they buy from to prioritize DEI and take action to promote diversity and inclusion in their online advertising. Likewise, Meta research cited 59 percent of consumers prefer to buy from brands that stand for diversity and inclusion in advertising. There is every reason for advertisers to lean into their DE&I goals and prioritize fair representation. While including multicultural and diverse talent in ad creatives is extremely important, it's only one of many steps that advertisers should take to ensure that they are actually reaching diverse audiences effectively.

Using More Diverse Data

The future is about finding new and alternative ways to maximize the value and impact of existing data to greater effect. Media planners themselves benefit from understanding how they differ from the audiences they may be targeting. Not only are they less culturally diverse than the rest of the country, but their habits are also different. On average, planners use more social media and watch less TV.

It's also important to source data to better understand different groups. Simply using demographic data to target Hispanics is far too shallow. Eight Hispanic groups in the U.S. have at least one million people, including Mexican, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, Cuban and Dominican groups. Richer data can uncover everything from varying attitudes about products to favorite content and music preferences to trending styles.

First-party data has the benefit of being higher fidelity than third-party cookies. When it comes to targeting specific audiences, accuracy matters. For example, Nielsen has worked with Televisa Univision to augment their normal panel data with a "big data" offering that provides a more accurate accounting of multicultural groups, particularly Hispanics.

Prioritizing Diverse Ad Optimization

The best-planned campaign can quickly get out of balance because of campaign optimization. Even if an advertiser carefully calibrates a collection of ad creatives to fairly represent their target audience, one creative may perform better against a particular metric and end up taking over. One study found that videos in the U.K. featuring females outperformed ads featuring men or even a mix of genders. A media buyer could be faced with a real conundrum. For example, should they throttle a creative showing a white female to give more exposure to a male of Asian origin? It gets complicated.

One thing advertisers can do is build checks and balances to monitor creative optimization throughout the campaign. Creatives perform differently on different platforms and within different contexts, and so marketers should work with their media teams to determine how to manage. Perhaps under-delivering on one platform is fine if it is made up elsewhere. Other advertisers may feel that the delivery should match the diversity of their target audience within each channel.

Seeking Out Representative Media

There's been significant discussion about the challenges advertisers face in achieving scale with diverse content. Many people don't feel accurately represented or feel underrepresented in mainstream content. Some companies like P&G and Discover are taking steps beyond traditional media purchases by investing in, and supporting, diverse content owners to help scale their businesses. It reflects a more profound commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion.

Many companies help advertisers reach good representative content in other ways. For example, Cognitiv provides advertisers with generative AI-based capabilities to buy diverse content based on more than a url or keyword. Additionally, Raptive helps advertisers reach independent diverse content owners through their platform.

These options are just a few of many to create a promising landscape for advertisers prioritizing DEI. The extra work to build a media plan that reaches diverse audiences is worth it. Not only do advertisers gain significant goodwill from showing up, like Lexus does using virtual product placement, they also create momentum that will drive longer-term relationships with an ever-changing customer base.

Jade C. Williams is senior product manager at VidMob.

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