Curated marketplaces: How marketers can reach culturally diverse audiences – at scale – without Facebook or Google
Brands say they want to spend their ad dollars in diverse environments, but often just wind up going with the easy tech of Google and Facebook. Ironically, good tech is the answer to the Big Tech problem, Xandr’s Erika Blakslee writes. Reaching diverse audiences on niche publications – that need support – used to need individual relationships, but a curated digital marketplace has changed that, and brands can measure the diversity of their media spend and benchmark it.
It’s a simple science: For publishers to thrive and for quality journalism to prosper, they need to be supported by a steady stream of advertising revenue. It’s no secret that traditional media has suffered due to the rise of Google and Facebook with the tech giants controlling a combined 81 per cent of online ad revenue in Australia. Mainstream media are hanging on, but smaller, independent media outlets are suffering. There is an urgent business imperative for the advertising world to not only catch up with societal shifts, ensuring funds are flowing through the entire publishing ecosystem, but to make campaigns more effective.
Minority publishers must be supported to make sure all voices are heard. While freedom of speech is vitally important, diversity of speech should not be overlooked. From creative right through to media planning, we need to ensure we are being more inclusive and diverse. Channelling money to the tech giants may be efficient and scalable for brands – but at what cost to the local publishing ecosystem?
The situation in Australia is so dire for independent publishers that a cohort of 30 of them – including diverse publishers Broadsheet, Star Observer, Urban List, Australian Chinese Daily and Australian Jewish News – called a 24-hour strike on publishing news stories last month. The #WaitingonZuck campaign aimed to exert pressure on Facebook to pay them for independent journalism under terms of the News Media Bargaining Code in what they described as an “obscene power imbalance”.
It's a stark reminder of the power of the tech giants but is also incumbent upon them – and all of us - to recognise the importance of a diverse media ecosystem.
The World Federation of Advertisers has also sought to redress the imbalance by launching the Diversity & Representation: Focus on Media Planning and Buying guide for more inclusive media planning. The WFA said: “The way a campaign is planned and bought can have a notable impact on reach and engagement across different audience groups. Making the right decisions can both ensure brands create more effective campaigns and, critically, play their part in funding a richer and more diverse media ecosystem.”
Before we look at the solution to this problem, it’s important to analyse why diversity is lacking in media planning. A fragmented ecosystem means that defining and executing a diverse media plan can be challenging. The intent is there, but brands have been slow to move because of the seemingly impossible task to execute an inclusive media plan programmatically.
First, marketers are concerned about scalability. How is it possible to create a diverse media plan that both reflects the audience but delivers on efficiency? Brand safety is another concern, with overly rigid settings that are blocking access to key communities. Even if a campaign is diverse at heart, the execution risks undermining it.
It may seem strange for such an emotive topic to say technology is the answer. And yet it is, in part.
Previously, if brands wanted to support, say, 10 minority publishers, they would have had to cultivate 10 separate relationships to realise their campaigns. Now, with the advent of curated marketplaces, niche players are brought together, becoming instantly scalable and bought from a single deal ID. It means that brands are able to buy scaled audiences enriched with data that makes sure they are a fit. While these tools weren’t designed with the specific purpose of boosting diversity, they’re helping bring diversity to the table in a more effective way than ever before. They’re also shaping more efficient, effective and accurate media plans for the future.
Finally, measurement and transparency go hand-in-hand and will play a critical role in establishing trust. By making claims of diversity, brands are under more scrutiny than ever before, which can lead to hesitancy and ‘playing it safe’. Technology allows marketers to measure their media plan’s performance in ways that are much more effective and revealing than using CPMs as the core performance indicator.
Similarly, it gives brands much greater visibility over their spend. Is it going to the right publisher? Is it genuinely feeding an open, diverse internet rather than propping up the usual suspects?
By making sure spend is reaching its intended destination, and delivering proven results for advertisers on those platforms, tech helps advertisers support content aimed at diverse audiences. Emotional intelligence and cultural sensitivity may be at the heart of diversity, but technology is what powers it.