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How Ad Land Can Champion Minority Media

Despite their enormous influence, minority media still struggles to be valued and heard in the hard-wired media sphere. 


America stands on the brink of profound and lasting change: population growth is now fuelled significantly by minority groups. Yet this isn’t necessarily a shift you’d notice by watching TV or reading online news – since, despite their enormous influence, minority groups still struggle to be valued and heard in the hard-wired media sphere. 

Written by Estefanía Agüero, Regional Director of U.S.Multicultural at ShowHeroes Group

While consumers are leading the bid for more diverse storytelling – both Deloitte and Google highlight inclusivity as a key marketing trend for 2023, in a demand spearheaded by Gen Z – progress is frustratingly slow. In fact, multicultural marketing accounts for just 7 percent of total advertising spend in the US, creating a huge gap between the call for authentic representation and the ad dollars to match it. 

Prioritizing minority-owned media is a vital way to cut through this deadlock; a challenge some agencies are trying to address with diversity targets (Magna, for example, is investing 5% of its spend in Black-owned media) and investment pledges (Publicis Media has earmarked $25 million for diverse content creation). 

Laudable as these ideas are, however, championing minorities is an issue that requires both more money – and more than money alone. For names such as Canela Media or Black Enterprise to thrive, – and America’s audiences to be more fully represented in their content – a series of key changes are long overdue. 

1. Rethinking core processes

Pledging support to minority-owned publishers is a starting point; but this commitment simply isn’t sustainable unless the infrastructure exists to match. The shift to a more equal media playing field requires brands and agencies trading with smaller businesses – which, in turn, equals greater flexibility.

Advertisers need to overhaul their payment structures, for example, so that emerging media companies have the cash flow they depend on to survive. Compared to giants such as Netflix or The Wall Street Journal, many minority titles cannot afford to wait out the extended payment terms often routinely levied in the ad supply chain. 

Similarly, we should rethink industry staples such as the upfront, which as Lynnwood Bibbens, CEO of ReachTV points out – can be costly to host, and risks freezing out less experienced players. Bibbens also argues that minority-led publishers, including Black-owned media, rely on predictable revenue channels. Agencies must lay out realistic delivery expectations and involve brands into the conversation with publishers earlier on, so there are no crossed wires.

Nielsen is currently working with industry organizations to provide aggregated metrics on the reach and audience profiles of diverse/minority owned media which may help in the discovery process. Yet, still, we need more effort to make an expensive and highly cumbersome structure accessible to emerging industry voices.

2. Plugging the video content gap

You only have to look at audience growth spikes on user-generated diversity news platforms such as Blavity and Outlier to know that the content economy rules all. And within this economy, short-form and digital video is proving ever-more lucrative. Production, however, is notoriously expensive and difficult to finesse – which is why it makes sense for minority-led publishers to collaborate. 

By outsourcing content to an experienced third party – ideally one with its own production studio – diversity titles can produce better quality video inventory that is monetized more effectively. For example, nuance is so important when it comes to representation that feels authentic to specific audiences. Americans, for instance, want to see more nuanced accounts of Asian Americans; including content that counters a legacy of community “invisibility”, and speaks to topics such as AAPI contribution to American history. 

Hiring a video agency means working alongside a team of seasoned editors to explore these themes in digital’s most engaging format – putting an archive of authentic and profitable video content in easy reach of advertisers. The same mentality could be applied to capturing topics within the growing diversity of Black America, or in breaking down misperceptions in the portrayal of contemporary Native Americans; most of whom are underrepresented in mainstream news media. These are complex ideas to tackle in video; but the power of partnership – whether that’s finding on-screen talent or targeting the right audiences via semantic tech – can help.

3. Change at a macro level

For more investment opportunities in minority-owned media, top-down change is also essential. Despite making up nearly 20% of the American population and $2.8 trillion in total economic output, Latinos are perpetually absent in the media industry, including major newsrooms. The same mismatch is echoed across America’s many minority groups. 

Yet, as research from the World Economic Forum shows, for an accurate representation of the world we live in today, diversity is key. Newsrooms, advertising agencies, major marketeers: players across the media landscape must work together to ensure their own houses are in order when it comes to a diverse workforce – in a meaningful shift that extends to the visibility and monetization of minority-owned outlets. 

Equally, this mindset should also apply to new and booming digital verticals. Brands operating in gaming, the metaverse and retail media networks are ideally placed to get creative in their support of diverse-owned businesses. Individual brands could also follow the lead of drinks giant Diageo, which – after an inclusivity audit of its placement choices – is now running campaigns in new media genres such as hip hop.

4. A future that’s non-formulaic

Against the backdrop of structural racism and a global recession, taking tangible action to support minority-owned publishers is more important than ever. But this monumental shift was never going to be a matter of box-ticking or chasing audience likes (even if said audiences are highly engaged and influential). This is a challenge that transcends one-off moves such as investment targets or the creation of agency teams assigned to “multicultural” placements. The scale of change is so huge, in fact, it would be some feat for a marketing team to capture the increasing multiracial diversity of one ethnic group; let alone grouping all cultures randomly as one. 

Instead, with Asian Americans as the fastest-growing racial group in the US, and Hispanic and Black Americans as the majority population in a growing number of counties, minority audiences *are* the mainstream. This is not a concept that can be neatly siloed, or assigned a task. Rather, it’s an evolving process of education and customization that requires conscious action by all actors involved in the media chain. Those that cannot adapt to this new reality will fall behind. And minority media, with its unique ability for authentic engagement, is at the center of the axis; the pivot by which to lean in.

Written by Estefanía Agüero, Regional Director of U.S.Multicultural at ShowHeroes Group


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