Brand Strategy Diversity and Inclusion Marketing

A marketers guide to diverse media planning

By Charlotte McEleny, digital editor


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December 9, 2021 | 6 min read

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Media plans are not always reflective of society’s diversity: here’s how to fix it


Advertisers are starting to realize that they play a really valuable role in keeping the internet diverse, open and free.

For all the fanfare that the marketing industry gives to diversity, ensuring that media plans are diverse has not become business as usual, according to Xandr.

In an interview with The Drum during the Marketing to the Marginalised Deep Dive this week, Xandr senior commercial director, advertiser partnerships, Karan Singh, and senior director of solutions engineering, Harvin Gupta, share why diverse media planning matters and how marketers can take action today.

The reasons that marketers miss the mark on media diversity can be due to different factors. Firstly, the creative may not represent the diversity of the people it aims to reach. Secondly, the touchpoints may not match up to or reach people that spend time on particular channels. For example, some gamers spend very little time engaging with traditional touchpoints. Finally, the plan may be targeting certain audiences but they may not be funding businesses and publishers that are owned by diverse audiences.

Defining diversity

Where brands need to start is by defining what a diverse media plan really means to them, according to Singh, who shares that while a partner like Xandr has technology that can help power a more diverse media plan, they aren’t best placed to say exactly how this should look.

“Brands have found it can be a challenge to define what diversity means for them. It’s important to be able to explain that to their tech or agency partners, so they can actually help activate against it. Everyone wants to be diverse and inclusive because we're in 2021 and that's where the societal shift has moved to. But it needs to be core to your business plan and core to your advertising strategy that sits within that, and you need to be able to define it,” he explains.

Scaling diversity through technology

One thing that may have gotten in the way of marketers having a diverse media plan is a perception that it may not have been scalable, or some media owners may have been taken off plan for efficiency reasons. Singh argues that this can change because of the technology that supports the ecosystem.

“A diverse media plan might be defined by brands who are looking to support the media that are minority-owned or the smaller niche players with great engagement within certain communities. It may be that brands turned this down previously because it wasn't scalable, or operationally efficient. This is how Xandr is helping to support that, with solutions and tech that underlies it,” he adds.

Brand safety and inauthentic strategies

Another major factor that has gotten in the way of brands having media plans that match their diversity targets is outdated approaches to brand safety.

According to Gupta, many brands haven’t looked at the nuances of brand safety settings which mean that they may be executing their media in a way that is at odds with the strategy.

“You can have a brand that sets out values and the content that it wants to target but in the DSP, there are some keyword block lists that are blocking certain communities, or blocking the type of content that those communities consume. It becomes an inauthentic strategy, that's simply not going to work. A good example of this is LGBTQI+ content, which we often see on blocklists, or religious content, especially around certain religious groups. It doesn't really matter how diverse your plan is, the execution could go wrong as well,” explains Gupta.

Curation and context lead solutions

A marketer’s need to scale marketing efficiently and safely will not go away but thanks to technology, this no longer needs to be at a cost to diversity. Some of the tools and trends that are shaping the future of programmatic can also be used in a way that ensures brands carry diversity authenticity into their execution.

One of the biggest trends in programmatic has been a move towards the curation of supply, allowing brands to buy scaled audiences that have been selected and enriched with additional data to ensure they fit the strategy. Xandr calls these Curated Marketplaces.

“One of the things that we've supported from a tech perspective is around curating deals. This means taking a number of different niche players and putting them together, so they're more scalable. We then have them to buy, essentially off one deal ID, so there's operational efficiency,” explains Gupta.

The link between transparency and diversity

Singh adds that many marketers are looking at Curated Marketplaces as a transparency effort too, which is intrinsically linked to diversity, in his opinion.

“If we talk about advertising funded content, a lot of the internet exists in the way we know it today because of advertising. If you take away advertising, the only model that's left is a subscription model and that rules out a lot of people financially. We can say that the free advertising model provides a diversity of internet, which gives us diverse audiences,” he explains.

“What I'm seeing is advertisers are starting to realize that they play a really valuable role in keeping the internet diverse, open and free. Where that lends something to the discussion on transparency is that it's important that brands understand exactly where their budgets are going. They need to understand how much of that money is making it through to the end publisher as that’s what's allowing the publisher to go and get more journalists. Brands are starting to wake up to that and start to realize that their advertising budgets equate to social good if they can spend them in the right places,” he adds.

The time is now for brands to align their diversity strategy with their execution across media at the day-to-day level, rather than paying lip service. Thanks to how programmatic technology is evolving, this no longer has to be at a cost of business KPIs and results.

Brand Strategy Diversity and Inclusion Marketing

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