DEI Action Is In, and Diverse Media Needs More Budget Share
The media industry must go from making headlines to making headway
February 22, 2023 | By Michael Roca, Managing Director, DE&I Investment, Omnicom Media Group
In the pantheon of tried and true attention-grabbing content, the “in and out” list has stood the test of time. Who among us can resist these curated compendiums of where we have been and where we are going?
Sure, sometimes the balance between pithy and pragmatic, aspirational and actionable is a bit off, but occasionally they will strike at the core of an issue. Case in point: Adweek’s list of what’s in and out for marketing in 2023, which declared DEI pledges out and “DEI action and accessibility in practice” in.
It’s been almost three years since media agencies and brand marketers made headlines with pledges and commitments supporting diverse-owned media. But have these promises translated to meaningful headway? Granted, they started a conversation—one we’re still having. But that conversation is still far too confined to a single corner of the room, where the same historic group of marketers engage with the same narrow group of diverse media owners and publishers.
Making headway means increasing diverse media’s share of the big advertising budgets for the long term, in a way that supports brand values and business goals alike and moves the industry toward a truly cross-cultural approach to media planning and investment.
Moving from headlines to headway is certainly more complicated a challenge than any in-and-out diptych can support. But if 2023 is to be the year of DEI action, it must start with a shared commitment to four other words that begin with A.
Diverse consumers are America’s growth engine, representing 40% of the population. If diversity is a priority for an organization, then it should be a key factor in how brands act and show up in marketing and media every day of the year. An example of this is Dream in Black, an always-on lifestyle platform where AT&T celebrates Black culture and the creators who shape it, allowing the brand to foster a deeper and more genuine relationship with the community.
Are all key stakeholders in the media and marketing process aligned to the organization’s diversity ambitions? CMOs can receive standing ovations for their diversity speeches at marketing conferences, but if it’s falling on deaf ears within their respective organizations, they risk becoming another performative marketer.
PepsiCo has done the opposite by becoming a trailblazer, recently celebrating the 40th anniversary of its diversity program, including committing to spend more than $400 million annually with diverse-owned suppliers and partnering with the National Minority Supplier Development Council to cover the expenses for minority business enterprise certifications.
No, doing a Black upfront doesn’t meet the bar here. Accessibility means making it easier for brands to discover diverse partners that aren’t currently on their radar—and once they have discovered them, building an architecture that supports ongoing, brand-specific, outcomes-focused conversations.
In other words, it’s not about giving diverse media their own upfront; it’s about keeping them in front of the people who control spend on both the client and agency sides, in hyper-relevant contexts. It’s with this thought in mind that new industry events have been launched, such as Mediahub’s Diversity-Owned Media Day and Omnicom Media Group’s “infronts” series.
The fastest path to traction for any media channel is demonstrating results. As long as DEI investment is measured in terms of meeting social responsibility targets versus impact on business goals, it will remain an adjunct to the media plan as opposed to an asset for driving growth.
The lack of visibility in the marketplace from a marketing and data representation perspective, compounded by affordable access to advanced measurement tools, have walled off diverse-owned media from having any pathway to build a performance media narrative.
While there has been progress from agencies in highlighting the value of diverse-owned media, and measurement companies revisiting pricing policies to include more diverse-owned suppliers, we are still dealing with legacy data sets based on panels that aren’t representative of the general population, which continue to negatively impact the performance of diverse-owned media.
Given that diverse-owned media represents 7% of the entire media ecosystem, the industry needs to band together in establishing an agreed-upon roadmap of standardized and relevant KPIs that both address and resolve historic measurement and data impediments. A tall order? Yes, but then again, if the video seller and buyer marketplace can come together in the name of more accurate measurement, the industry can certainly do the same to assure that the data on which we transact accurately represents the diverse media opportunity.
In the meantime, agencies have opportunities to help manifest diversity in the media process by leveraging media-owned tools like TelevisaUnivision’s Hispanic household identity graph. Covering nearly 100% of Hispanic households, it marks a significant step forward in closing the representation in measurement gap, as evidenced by the 100% growth in audience revenue and the customer content and sponsorships it helped drive for TelevisaUnivision during the 2022 upfronts.
At the same time, consortiums of diverse media channels like Group Black, NGL Collective, Revolt and Urban One are offering solutions to the issues of both scale and measurement that have been barriers to investment.
The value is there—it’s up to us to unlock it. And when we do, that’s when the headlines become headway.