Commentary

Will 'The New York Times' Allay Marketer Fears About Hot-Button Issues?

The New York Times last week introduced a consumer-insights program aimed at helping advertisers handle touchy issues, such as racism, climate change, gender fluidity and sex.
With many brands either avoiding these topics or falling victim to the "get woke, go broke" pitfalls of clumsy campaigns that invite scorn, the initiative may convince advertisers and their agencies to address social topics in a way that produces a business outcome. 
Called "Pivotal," the program promises to help brands stay relevant by understanding current trends and consumer attitudes, according to its website. Those insights are gleaned from surveys and interviews with consumers, experts and journalists.

NYT Advertising provided a handful of consumer insights about hot-button issues. For example, 71% of NYT readers said companies are obligated to educate consumers on how they can help fight climate change, and two out of three Gen-Zers prioritize money, career and friends over their sex life, higher than for any other generation in the U.S. Perhaps they'll think differently when they move out of mom's basement or buy a car.
The NYT has hired people to conduct research and provide recommendations on how brands can adjust their messaging. Staffers from sales, marketing, technology, events, research and design are participating, along with people from the newsroom, Axios reported.
The initiative comes as a study by NBCUniversal Advertising Sales found that 69% of those surveyed want brands to reference current events, such as COVID-19 and other issues, while 81% said they're more likely to buy brands that "help others when it’s needed most," Media Daily News reported.
The NYT's program also can harness first-party data about its growing number of subscribers to help advertisers improve their ad targeting. With the diminishing use of third-party cookies and mobile identifiers, advertisers are looking for other ways to ensure they're reaching audiences that aren't duplicated. That demand makes the NYT's audience insights more valuable.
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