Can Programmatic Advertising Be Inclusive?

While popular demand-side platforms (DSPs) like Google DV360, Xandr, and The Trade Desk offer powerful tools for reaching vast target audiences programmatically, digital media buyers for Fortune 500 companies face a more profound challenge: effectively spending the massive budgets allocated to them, especially when it comes to reaching diverse audiences. 

While diversity, equity, and inclusion seem to have fallen out of favor in some areas, DEI continues to thrive in others. Consumers are still very interested in engaging with brands that align with their values and show that support, or lack thereof, with their wallets. Future-focused brands see engaging with diverse audiences as a moral duty and sound business strategy for growth. However, achieving this in the digital realm can be difficult, particularly when traditional demographic targeting methods fall short. 

That's where an inclusive perspective on programmatic advertising becomes essential. It's not just about casting a wider net but leveraging insights into cultural nuances, behavioral patterns, and consumer preferences to reach diverse audiences with content they want to see. Doing so eliminates the need to create fictitious audiences or use identifiers subject to restrictions, which are common tactics on DSPs today. 

One key aspect to consider is the concept of zero-party data. Unlike third-party data, which can be unreliable and plagued with privacy concerns, consumers willingly provide zero-party data. It's the information they consciously share with brands because they see value in doing so. Since consumers are self-reporting across a range of classifications and categories, the insights can enrich programmatic strategies, improving campaign performance and ROI. 

Most DSPs, however, lack native capabilities to offer zero-party data to programmatic advertisers. By partnering with third-party providers specializing in zero-party data solutions, digital media buyers can segment their audience based not just on traditional demographics but on cultural affinities, language preferences, and even heritage. This unprecedented granularity unlocks a wealth of insights that enable media buyers to reach diverse audiences more effectively. 

Effective targeting is just one piece of the puzzle. Equally important is crafting messaging that resonates authentically with diverse audiences. This requires a deep understanding of cultural nuances and sensitivities and a commitment to representation and inclusivity in your creative approach. Achieving this demands C-level buy-in and a commitment to inclusion as a core pillar of the company's digital advertising strategy, positioning the brand to enhance its effectiveness in an increasingly multicultural marketplace. 

In closing, big-picture thinking, ingenuity, and an inclusive perspective on programmatic advertising are value-adds to digital media buyers responsible for managing ad budgets for some of the world’s largest brands. Central to this approach is embracing the potential of zero-party data and forging partnerships with innovative third-party providers. Doing so opens doors to new avenues for engaging diverse audiences in a genuine and impactful manner.  

This blog post was originally published on MediaPost.

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Diverse Teams Can Transform Market Research: Authentic Insights Ahead

Diversity isn't just about optics. Today’s consumers prioritize authenticity and base their purchase decisions on how brands show up. But authenticity does not start when the products hit the shelf. It must be woven into every stage of the go-to-market strategy, including market research – from panel recruitment and survey design to selecting moderators who foster open and honest conversations. Understanding diverse consumer perspectives requires more than just surface-level representation.

One crucial aspect of fostering authenticity in market research is the composition of research teams. Selecting moderators, for example, that reflect the demographics of the survey participants helps ensure authenticity in their responses. The psychological safety that the environment presents reduces the need for codeswitching, liberating respondents to be their authentic selves.

Beyond focus groups, greater diversity is needed across the market research industry. Often, diverse teammates doing the work—running the data tables and visualizing the data—aren’t the ones presenting the work, and that needs to change. There’s value in bringing those in the back of the house to the front to create equal opportunity for advancement. 

By prioritizing inclusivity and authenticity internally, companies can forge deeper connections with consumers externally and drive meaningful change in the marketplace.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Kai Fuentes, President and CEO of Ebony Marketing Systems, discusses how the market research industry can benefit from intentionally cultivating and championing diversity and inclusion.

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Bridging Cultures, Elevating Wellness: The Future of Multicultural Marketing

Today's consumers are confidently embracing their authentic identities, and forward-thinking brands are following suit. Inclusive beauty giants like Ulta Beauty proudly defy gender norms, while others prominently feature same-sex couples and individuals with disabilities and promote body positivity in their advertising campaigns. On the flip side, some brands are succumbing to the fear of appearing overly “woke.” The increasing backlash against diversity, equity and inclusion has prompted a few to backtrack on commitments made during the peak of social unrest in 2020, leaving consumers feeling angered and confused.

Multicultural consumers, who represent almost 100% of the population growth in the U.S. and are on track to become the majority by 2050, seek genuine connections with brands. Central to this is a brand's ability to authentically understand its audience and allow that authenticity to drive consumer engagement.

Brands that bridge cultural divides are the ones that thrive. By genuinely connecting cross-culturally, companies seamlessly align DEI with their bottom line. Inclusivity isn't optional – it's the fuel for long-term success. From diverse workforces to inclusive marketing campaigns, a focus on inclusion strengthens every aspect of a brand.

Understanding multicultural consumers means appreciating their commitment to holistic well-being. Black women prioritize mental health, while Gen Z seeks a shift from the “grind” to self-care and mindful living. Brands that tap into these trends resonate with a broader audience.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Will Campbell, Co-founder and CEO of Quantasy, shares his perspective on the state of multicultural marketing and how young, diverse generations are driving wellness trends.

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Multicultural Marketing in 2024: Change is Here, Opportunity Awaits

The past year has been a roller coaster ride for multicultural marketing practitioners. From the recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action to increased scrutiny of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, companies are carefully assessing how these factors will impact their multicultural marketing budgets. ThinkNow shares this curiosity and has recently surveyed corporate decision-makers in multicultural marketing and multicultural consumer research, aiming to understand how they are strategically navigating the current landscape.

Download the report here.

The short answer? Budgets are increasing.

Multicultural marketing budgets are on the rise. Two-thirds of respondents plan to maintain or increase their multicultural marketing budgets in 2024. The driving force? Opportunity. Recognizing the economic power of diverse consumers and demographic shifts, companies see multicultural marketing as a key growth strategy.

Among the reasons cited by the 31% of respondents who plan to increase their budgets are identifying new business opportunities, acknowledging cultural influence on their business, and a desire to better represent and impact diverse audiences.

  • “Audience business opportunity, cultural influence, growing audience representation and impact.”
  • “More budget available to multicultural marketing. Hispanic has historically been a priority. We're on the journey to increase focus with African-American and other cohorts.”
  • “Growing diverse consumer impact on business and sales.”

Additionally, respondents highlighted the importance of staying ahead of cultural trends and consumer behaviors to remain relevant and effective in their marketing efforts. This includes understanding the nuances of different cultural identities and tailoring messaging and campaigns accordingly. Companies recognize that cultural relevance is not only a matter of inclusivity but also a strategic imperative for engaging and retaining diverse consumer segments.

Interestingly, nearly 40% of respondents intend to maintain their 2023 budgets, indicating a continued commitment to multicultural marketing. This demonstrates a continued recognition of the economic significance of multicultural consumers and the importance of targeting this segment effectively.

Challenges and Cautiousness

However, amidst the optimism surrounding budget increases, there are challenges and instances of caution. Eighteen percent of multicultural marketing decision-makers plan to decrease budgets, citing general cost-cutting measures and clients shifting towards broader "general population" strategies. Among the reasons given by the minority who stated they’re reducing their budgets were:

  • “Budget cuts across multicultural marketing efforts and an increased desire from clients to hit 'wider' audiences; e.g., Gen Pop.”
  • “Less clients trying to target multicultural clients.”
  • “Lower post-COVID budgets.”

Moreover, there is a growing emphasis on accountability and measurement in multicultural marketing efforts. Companies are increasingly leveraging data and analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of their campaigns and ensure they are resonating with diverse audiences. This includes monitoring key performance indicators such as brand awareness, consumer engagement, and sales lift among multicultural segments.

Adapting Multicultural Marketing Strategies

Still, 1 in 4 companies are adapting their approach. The cost of “getting it wrong” has increased in recent years. No one wants to be in the position Budweiser was in after boycotts erupted in response to their partnership with a trans influencer. In response, some companies are taking a more cautious approach, while others are conducting more research before launching new campaigns.

Key Takeaways:

  • Multicultural marketing remains a strategic priority for many companies.
  • The economic power of diverse consumers is driving budget increases.
  • Uncertainty and cost-cutting pressures are impacting some budgets.
  • Companies are adapting their strategies to navigate the changing landscape.

What does this mean for the future? While challenges exist, the prevailing sentiment among many practitioners is that multicultural marketing represents a pivotal avenue for growth. Companies adept at strategically maneuvering through these changes and placing a premium on comprehending diverse consumer demographics will undoubtedly find themselves poised for success.

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Can the Insights Industry See Itself Clearly?

As Women's History Month approaches each year, the remarkable strides women have made in business become increasingly clear. However, despite these advancements, certain industries, such as the insights industry, continue to struggle with leadership inequities and a lack of workforce diversity.

While the insights industry prides itself on understanding and reflecting diversity in consumer populations, this awareness often stops short within its own workforce. This creates a troubling gap: the voices informing strategies may be representative, but the decision-makers interpreting and implementing those insights remain predominantly homogenous.

This lack of diversity leads to blind spots and missed opportunities, potentially limiting strategy effectiveness and perpetuating biases. Closing the gap between measured and internal diversity unlocks the full potential of insights, creating more opportunities across the board.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Ali Henriques, Global Director of Research Services at Qualtrics, delves deeper into leadership diversity and its impact on recruiting and retaining diverse talent.

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Beyond Stereotypes: Embracing Specificity for Authentic Multicultural Marketing

Multicultural marketing has emerged as a critical strategy for brands seeking to reach and engage a broader audience in today's interconnected, global marketplace. However, the days of generic, one-size-fits-all campaigns are long gone. Today's discerning consumers demand authenticity and cultural relevance, and it's up to brands to rise to the challenge and meet their needs.

Specificity promotes diversity and increases representation.

Specificity is the cornerstone of effective multicultural marketing. While targeting broader ethnic or cultural groups represents a step forward from the general market, it still fails to address the inherent diversity within these groups. Instead, brands must delve deeper, understanding the nuances, subcultures, and unique experiences that define each audience segment.

Latinx audiences, for instance, are often stereotyped as abuela-focused or reduced to Spanglish catchphrases in hastily translated general market ads. But these tired tropes do not account for the rich diversity, lived experiences and varied levels of acculturation within Latinx communities.

Consumers crave genuine representation and identify with advertising that mirrors how they see themselves and how they live. Whether it's language nuances, celebrating cultural traditions, or portraying diverse family structures, brands that avoid stereotypes will pull ahead.

Consumer scrutiny of DEI remains high.

The rise of multicultural marketing coincides with escalating calls for social justice, particularly in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Since then, companies have woken up to the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), creating executive-led initiatives to drive change within these organizations.

However, recent trends suggest that the corporate focus on DEI may be waning. Layoffs within DEI departments and pending lawsuits suggest a decline in DEI efforts, which could impact multicultural marketing strategies.

Despite the corporate ebb and flow, consumer scrutiny of diversity and inclusion efforts or the lack thereof remains steadfast. Consumers are increasingly aware of companies' DEI commitments and hold them accountable through their purchasing decisions.

A recent ThinkNow study found that 72% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that demonstrate genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion. This sentiment is echoed across all demographics, including multicultural consumers.

Multicultural Marketing and DEI have a symbiotic relationship.

Effective multicultural marketing is inextricably linked to a deeply ingrained culture of DEI within an organization. When DEI is embedded in the corporate DNA, it fosters a culture of empathy, respect, and inclusivity, empowering the people behind the brands to create authentic and culturally relevant marketing campaigns that, in turn, reinforce DEI efforts.

The future of marketing is multicultural.

As the election cycle heats up, issues of race and ethnicity are poised to dominate public discourse. Now more than ever, companies need to demonstrate their commitment to DEI.

The future of marketing is undoubtedly diverse. By fostering empathy, understanding, and respect for these audiences, brands will forge stronger bonds, drive growth, and emerge as leaders in multicultural marketing.

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Overcoming the Limits of Multicultural Marketing

While diversity and inclusion have recently come under fire in several industries, the expectation consumers set in 2020 for brands to be more inclusive stands. A ThinkNow study revealed that over 45% of consumers are willing to go out of their way to shop at a store they've never frequented if the brand has made a public commitment to D&I. Forty-seven percent of consumers are willing to spend more in a store.  This demonstrates a significant shift in consumer priorities, with many placing a high value on brands that align with their beliefs.

While different, D&I and multicultural marketing often converge in practice, creating a powerful synergy for reaching and engaging diverse audiences. The growing multicultural majority in the U.S. has shifted consumer behavior, with individuals increasingly seeking brands that reflect their own diverse identities and values. As a result, multicultural marketing has become an essential tool for brands. A fundamental understanding of D&I and how it integrates into multicultural marketing, from representation to authenticity and cultural competency, helps brands realize the full potential of this synergy.

However, the challenge with multicultural marketing often lies in the limitations imposed on it. Often, multicultural marketing is viewed as separate from mainstream marketing strategies, leading to limited budgets and resources that can negatively impact campaign performance and jeopardize relationship-building efforts with diverse audiences.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Javier Farfan, Culture Marketing Strategist at the National Football League (NFL), delves into various multicultural campaigns the NFL has launched to effectively reach and engage multicultural audiences and how the league overcomes multicultural marketing pitfalls.

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