Accurate Multicultural Audience Measurement? What GroupM, Starcom, and UM Worldwide Have to Say
What: Portada touched base with audience measurement experts to gather insights around the problem of under-representation of multicultural audiences in segmentation and measurement.
Why it matters: Multicultural audiences are under-represented by measurement firms by as much as 25%, causing a negative impact in media investment levels and producing overall flawed results.
As cultural nuances and consumer behavior shift and change, and as the proliferation of new technologies demands multi-channel strategies, audience measurement has never been more complicated. And as it happens with everything else, the task is even more difficult when it comes to measuring multicultural audiences, which, experts tell Portada, are under-represented by major measurement firms by as much as 25%. If this is the case, it can be easily stated that media spend targeting multicultural audiences should be substantially higher than it is right now. Just for Hispanic marketing, Portada estimates a 2019 overall expenditure level of US 6.07 billion, but if firms under-represent audiences by up o 25%, media spend could increase by up to US 1.5 billion. (Admittedly, this is a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but the exercise highlights the importance of accurate multicultural audience measurement to satisfy clients' needs, as well as in terms of potential for the multicultural media industry.)
The lack of a common audience measurement currency in multicultural audience measurement impacts media investment levels negatively.
For many years now, companies like Nielsen and Kantar have offered advanced TV audience measurement. However, competition has increased as new players offer digital solutions that claim to be more comprehensive, forcing the bigger players to think of new ways to keep up with how audiences move and evolve. As it is now, inconsistencies between reported data reveal the lack of a common audience measurement currency in multicultural audience measurement, which impacts media investment levels negatively.
Furthermore, marketers’ biases lead to incorrect interpretation of data, which in turn leads to bad consumer experiences and a negative result overall. How can we expect to move the needle if we can’t even tell where it is? In order to find out more about how these challenges could be surmounted, we talked to experts who understand how audience measurement impacts media planning and buying: Dana Bonkowski, SVP, Multicultural Lead at Starcom; Mebrulin Francisco, Managing Partner, Sr Director, MPlatform, GroupM; Nelson Pinero, Senior Digital Director, Senior Partner at GroupM; and David Queamante, SVP, Client Business Partner at UM Worldwide.
Under and Over-Representation
The first thing all interviewees agreed on is the fact that multicultural audiences continue to be under-represented by major measurement firms. One of the reasons for this, explained Mebrulin Francisco, is the lack of insight into how audiences behave. When asked for an example, Francisco mentioned all those times when data providers collected data on Hispanics, but once her team digged deeper, they realized the majority of Hispanics represented were English-dominant. This is a big issue because “it means the data is not representative of all the Hispanics in the U.S., creating a blind spot,” she said.
The same has happened in the other extreme, where you can have over-representation of Spanish-dominant consumers, creating a blind spot for Bilingual or English-dominant Hispanics. “This is especially the case within sets that depend on cookie level data,” Francisco explained. “If this is true for the Hispanic segment, which is the largest among multicultural consumers, think about the under-representation of African-American or Asian segments. Many data providers do not even report on these multicultural sub-segments.”
Language preference won’t singlehandedly define and capture an audience, so in many cases, a large portion of a given audience is not captured.
Therefore, the first thing is having a representative sample of the audience. It might seem obvious, but in the words of David Queamante, “Unless measuring companies take the time to ensure they are gathering information from a representative sample of users, they will under-count multicultural audiences by default”. This means a challenge because, as Dana Bonkowski mentioned, “engagement with culture-driven content is often the best signal to identify whether or not a person is 'multicultural', but language preference won’t singlehandedly define and capture an audience, so in many cases a large portion of a given audience is not captured.”
Multicultural Media Consumption is Elusive
Marketers have long assumed that a universal approach can reach audiences. However, "in doing so they fail to identify key nuances in motivations, attitudes, and behavior across consumer segments leading to an incomplete marketplace assessment," explained Mebrulin Francisco. In the case of multicultural consumers, it's even more complicated to hit the mark; since datasets are limited, firms "do not flag multicultural consumers accurately and do not provide a holistic view of the brand’s performance, blurring meaningful insights," said Francisco.
Multicultural media consumption is concentrated on certain outlets that [aren't always] included on measurement companies' surveys and reports. Therefore, multicultural media consumption may seem to 'disappear'.
Moreover, multicultural audiences are harder to measure accurately because, as David Queamante explains, "Multicultural media consumption is concentrated on certain outlets that may not always be large or prominent enough to be included on the measurement companies’ surveys and reports. Therefore, multicultural media consumption may seem to 'disappear.'" Besides, mentioned Queamante, not all measurement companies offer surveys in Spanish, which considerably reduces the representation of Spanish-dominant Hispanic audiences, for example.
Privacy Issues Complicate Things Even More
The new era has brought significant advantages. If anything happens, as long as it happens online, it can be measured. However, the fact that it's now easier to use and collect data as also brought up important privacy issues. Nelson Pinero predicts that "With audiences paying a little bit more attention to how and which personal data is being shared, it will become a bit more difficult to reach a diverse audience."
The truth is, though, this is already a reality. Media buyers and agencies are working together around the problem of accurate audience measurement, but "What follows now is all part of the balancing act between data and the years of experience that allow the media buyers to react dynamically to market conditions and to, ideally, optimize plans," added Pineiro. "Audiences will take more control of how they are reached and agencies trying to find the right audience will need to cross-reference their deterministic/probabilistic data to enhance plan performance."
What Happens Now?
The most obvious thing we can expect is to see data science become even more important as the details of our digital reality unfold. "Measurement is the new black," declared Mebrulin Francisco. "As we push towards a data-driven age in marketing, science, quantification, and data are going to continue to be a cornerstone of decision making. If I cannot measure the impact of my investment, understand my audience impression on a site or reach potential it will be very hard to make a case for using a partner."
Start building out multicultural and cultural expertise in house to accurately represent these audiences in your data streams.
Moreover, the immediate future is inescapably multicultural, so marketers need to use art to harness the power of all this data in order to represent audiences accurately, and experts like Mebrulin Francisco believe a good way to start is with first-party data. "If you are in the audience measurement space my recommendation is to start building out multicultural and cultural expertise in house to accurately represent these audiences in your data streams."
When asked for her views on the future, Dana Bonkowski shared the hope that "marketers invest to better understand the business-building power of multicultural audiences. More than 30% of all Americans fall in one or more ‘multicultural’ audience buckets. The question should be “How can you afford not to invest against better multicultural audience measurement?"