Eimear O’Rourke
Apr 4, 2022

Why diversity in media planning is a business imperative

The role tech can play in bringing the industry a step closer towards a more diverse publishing landscape.


It’s a simple science: For publishers to thrive and for quality journalism to prosper, they need to be supported by a steady stream of advertising revenue. It’s no secret that traditional media has suffered in the rise of the Alphabet, Meta and Amazon triopoly, with the tech giants together controlling half the advertising ecosystem outside of China.

The mainstream media are just about hanging on, but the minority-backed media outlets are suffering. There is an urgent business imperative for the world of advertising to catch up with societal shifts, ensuring funds are flowing through the entire publishing ecosystem. Minority publishers must be supported to make sure all voices are heard. While freedom of speech is vitally important, we mustn’t overlook diversity of speech. From the creative right through to the media plan, we need to ensure we are being more inclusive and diverse. Channelling money into the triopoly may be efficient and scalable for brands—but at what cost to the local publishing ecosystem?

Before we look at the solution to this problem, it’s important to analyse why diversity is currently lacking when it comes to media planning, particularly here in the APAC region. We are an incredibly diverse region, built up of many different languages, cultures and backgrounds. Given how fragmented the ecosystem is, defining and executing a diverse media plan can be challenging.

The intent is there, but brands have been slow to move because of the seemingly impossible task to execute an inclusive media plan programmatically. First, marketers are concerned about scalability. How is it possible to create a diverse media plan that both reflects the audience and delivers on efficiency? Brand safety is another concern, with overly rigid settings that are blocking access to key communities. Even if your campaign is diverse at heart, the execution risks undermine it.

It may seem strange, for such an emotive topic, to say technology is the answer. And yet it is, in part. Previously, if brands wanted to support, say, 10 minority publishers, they would have had to cultivate 10 separate relationships to get their advert live on those sites. Now, with the advent of curated marketplaces, niche players are brought together, becoming instantly scalable and bought from a single, one-deal ID. Brands are suddenly able to buy scaled audiences enriched with data that makes sure they are a fit. These aren’t tools that are specifically designed to bring diversity to the business—they’re essential to shaping the future of a more efficient, effective and accurate media plan. But in doing so they’re helping bring diversity to the table in a more effective way than ever before.

Finally, measurement and transparency go hand-in-hand and will play a critical role in establishing trust. In making claims to diversity, brands are under more scrutiny than ever before. It can lead to hesitancy and ‘playing it safe’ when it comes to diversity. Technology allows you to measure your media plan’s performance in ways much more effective and revelatory than using CPM as the core performance indicator.

Similarly, it gives brands much greater visibility over their spend—is it going to the right publisher, is it genuinely feeding an open, diverse internet rather than propping up the usual suspects? By making sure spend is reaching its intended destination—and delivering proven results for advertisers on those platforms—tech helps advertisers support content aimed at diverse audiences.

Emotional intelligence and cultural sensitivity may be at the heart of diversity, but technology is what powers it.

Eimear O'Rourke is account director at Xandr. 

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