Biased Metrics, False Narratives Take The Cake On Day 1 Of ANA Conference

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) selected “diversity” as its marketing word of the year, and it dedicated the subject to day one of its annual media conference Wednesday, highlighting some significant improvements in the way big advertisers and agencies deal with media suppliers serving minority communities, and revealing that they still have a long way to go.

The first improvement was identified by ANA Group Executive Vice President Bill Duggan during opening remarks kicking off the event, in which he disclosed that the ANA is close to ratifying its first set of new guidelines for members to consider when dealing with diversity suppliers, and revealed that the first one hits their bottom line: how quickly they get paid.

"For diverse suppliers, when working with the buyers, we’ve heard things like, 'Oh, national marketers, they have these onerous payment terms of 180 days, you know we can’t do that'," Duggan said, adding: "So that’s one of the guidelines for buyers -- that when you’re working with diverse suppliers, you need to have shorter payment terms, because generally, these are smaller businesses and they can’t afford to wait."

During a panel discussion later in the day, representatives of Black-owned media businesses acknowledged that there has been considerable improvement in both their access to as well as the attention being given to them by national marketers and their agencies, including an improvement in the payment cycle, but they said there still are crucial areas for improvement -- especially cultural ones in terms of the way advertisers and agency organizations think about minority-owned media businesses and how they vet them.

“My question is not why you buy us, but how you buy us,” said Don Jackson, owner of Central City Productions, and a conference attendee who asked the panel a question from the audience. “That could be to check a box,” he continued, noting that as much as national marketers have improved the role of diversity suppliers in their supply chain, they are still holding them up to the wrong standards: specifically, the “general market.”

“If the way you buy us, and how you buy us, is based upon the general market of how you have bought general-market media and you’re holding Black media to those standards, it really affects our bottom line,” he explained, citing issues like overall audience reach, but especially the fact that most big advertisers are still holding Black-owned media to the same metrics used to measure general market audiences.

This was a point brought up by several panelists as well, and it has also been a persistent issue for the ad industry and its measurement suppliers. Nielsen, in fact, was called to give testimony before Congress years ago about its under-representation of minority audiences, and pledged to adjust for that.

And while there is a broader reset of the audience measurement currently taking place for the “currencies” that advertisers and agencies use to buy media, Jackson indicated the problem continues to persist.

“Your agency tends to buy us on general-market measurements and it takes away the leverage we have for the audience that we’re reaching,” he asserted.

He went on to applaud steps that massive packaged-goods marketer Procter & Gamble has taken, but as a panelist, P&G Senior Director of U.S. Multicultural Media Charlotte La Niear noted during the discussion that P&G has overcome that problem through new, proprietary and as-yet-internal processes that she did not elaborate on.

“We are in the business right now of building a new cake,” she said, adding that eventually it will “enable the sharing of those new approaches to be an industry change -- not just maybe within our company.”

Wednesday’s sessions, however, also revealed that the ad industry is running on a parallel path developing Big Data and programmatic media-buying solutions that is overcoming some of the conventional measurement bias issues.

This was highlighted during the opening presentation by General Motors General Director-Global Media and Marketing Services Heather Stewart during a joint presentation with her media agency partner, Carat USA Senior Vice President-Global Strategy & Insights and M1 Audience Science David Lai.

Stewart and Lai made a strong case for how they were utilizing parent Dentsu’s and sister agency Merkle’s massive M1 database of 242 million “personally identifiable” American identities, which it can use to target diverse audiences more scientifically than any sample-based measurement system can.

“We like to call it the CRM database of the U.S.,” Lai quipped, alluding to the term for “customer relationship management” databases normally created by individual marketers utilizing their own loyalty programs.

“And every one of those 242 million IDs can be pushed into a one-to-one activation ecosystem across digital, social and video,” he said making a not-so-indiscreet pitch for parent Dentsu’s solution.

Specifically, he said, Carat has been working with GM to shift its media planning and buying from targeting based on conventional media-measurement approaches to utilizing M1’s “high-propensity audience” targets. He said Carat has created 100 high-propensity audience segments for GM to date.

“And in this way, our diverse audiences, whether it’s a Chevrolet Silverado Hispanic audience to a Cadillac Escalade African American audience to a Bolt EV Asian American audience… they can be reached through M1 through total market diverse-dedicated and diverse-owned publishers in one, end-to-end ecosystem.”

Similarly, during the panel discussion that followed, Charles Cantu, founder and CEO of Reset Digital -- which has been working closely with the ANA, as well as P&G and other big marketers -- said his company has also been creating a massive database capable of identifying discrete minority audiences via programmatic media.

“We built out the largest diverse owned-and-operated media marketplace that serves programmatic,” he said, adding that Reset also developed solutions enabling the “idea of universal decision and neuro-programmatic that allows us to speak to people how they want to be spoken to, to treat people how they want to be treated.

“The increases in performance when you use those tools are 30%-plus,” he continued, noting: “When you add cultural context, you get even better performance. So the numbers are there. This is the time and space where leveraging the opportunity is good for people. It’s good for [the] planet. It’s good for profit. It’s good for everyone.”

The first day of the conference identified other cultural barriers that are less about numbers, metrics and technology, but more about legacy ways of thinking about the media supply chain.

Drawing on P&G’s La Niear’s “building a cake” metaphor, another audience member, former Mastercard media chief, now CEO of Modern Media Solutions, Ben Jankowski, asked, “What are the ingredients of the cake. Specifically, how should marketers be thinking different in a specific, tangible way?

Panelist Chesley Maddox-Dorsey, CEO of American Urban Radio Networks, responded by saying while the representation of audience measurement is a genuine problem, it’s really more of an issue of the “false narratives” it promulgates.

“That gives you false narratives,” she asserted, adding: “From an advertiser’s standpoint, they want to know if their products are moving off the shelf. I mean, that’s the basic at the end of the day. What they’re trying to do is sell a product.

“And if they have false narratives as to who is buying their product, or false narratives in how they address and audience, then it’s not good for them, and it’s not good for us.”

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