Boosting investments with minority-owned media companies is becoming the biggest conversation in media heading into this year’s upfronts.
Following commitments from IPG Mediabrands and GroupM, Dentsu is the latest media giant to outline its plans to increase visibility and investment with minority-owned media partners.
The holding company has brought on veteran media buyer Mark Prince to lead the offering as SVP, head of economic empowerment, a new role at the agency.
Prince will report to Dentsu Media CEO Doug Rozen and build a team focused on helping clients establish benchmarks and report spending with minority media owners, while rethinking the way they measure success with these partners.
The group will also provide strategic consulting and business development support to minority media partners on how to pitch ad buyers and clients, while creating a repository of media partners that buyers can easily access.
To facilitate relationships between buyers and sellers, Dentsu is hosting its first Infronts this year, an initiative that pairs clients with minority media partners.
“Much like we've created client-funded teams in areas like brand safety and productivity, we want to be the first to create a team that's addressing investment inequality,” Rozen said.
Part of the effort will be to grow the overall opportunity for minority-owned media in the marketplace, whether that’s by giving minority media owners a seat at the table or investing in them so they can command more attention in the space, Prince added.
“Media is very consolidated, so minority and diverse ownership has struggled,” he said. “We want bigger entities in this space so we have the ability to invest more dollars and have more strategic partnerships.”
Unlike IPG Mediabrands and GroupM, Dentsu hasn’t made a public spending commitment against minority-owned media because it’s more focused on building a capability to drive economic empowerment for diverse communities over the long term, Rozen said.
“There is a difference between creating capability and making commitments,” he explained. “Instead of just stating what we want to do long term, we're taking immediate and necessary action right now.”
Rozen said that, overall, reception from clients has been positive.
“They too see the need for help in how they make the right change,” he said. “Without the process, approach and mechanisms it's not going to create the stickiness we need.”
Over time, economic empowerment will grow into a “sizable department” of “dozens” of people sitting alongside Dentsu’s investment and account management teams, Rozen said.
“This should be the size of a brand safety, productivity or martech consulting practice,” he said. “If you look at how fast e-commerce teams are growing within agencies, there's no reason why inequality-driven teams shouldn’t be growing at the same rate. And we're committed to doing that.”
For Prince, who has been working in the supplier diversity space for some time, this moment and opportunity at Dentsu feel different.
“There's a seriousness and intentionality, and people willing to put resources upfront behind it,” he said. “Sometimes if the solution isn't there, you have to build it.”