Four ways to advance inclusive investment — once and for all

Credit: Clay Banks
Credit: Clay Banks

With more than 40% of the U.S. population identifying as ethnically diverse, and less than 5% of media spend attending to this population, we’re seeing growing threats to traditional media models and pricing.

U.S. population trends, purchasing behavior and cultural zeitgeist have dramatically shifted our understanding of marketing – who we connect with, how we reach them and how we share the right message.

Many of these trends will accelerate, disrupting traditional businesses and leaving some marketers panicked by the speed of change. Some will choose to act alone or pursue short-term goals without a clear and tangible sense of purpose. Imagine climbing a mountain of change without an attachment to what reaching the top means or understanding what mile markers to leave behind to make the climb easier for others. For other companies, the breakneck speed of change has created a sense of determination to ensure the collective industry’s survival.

With more than 40% of the U.S. population identifying as ethnically diverse, and less than 5% of media spend attending to this population, we’re seeing growing threats to traditional media models and pricing. In other words, the lunch advertisers eat today is far from guaranteed tomorrow. 

It’s this radical awareness of change that has driven me and my company to, as the Navy Seals often say, “wake up, find our mission and work with a shared sense of purpose.” 

Earlier this year we launched the Once & For All Coalition, an open-source consortium of advertisers, suppliers and experts committed to not only growing our business with diversely-owned and targeted suppliers, but removing legacy barriers that have limited their opportunities. Today, we have nearly 30 advertisers, 30 suppliers and support from and with ANA/AIMM, Nielsen, Comscore and other industry bodies.

Our goal is to deliver both short and long-term change in four critical areas: 

1. Break down barriers

One of our most important aims is to remove the systemic and structural barriers that limit equitable and relevant media spend. We’re looking at the vendor evaluation criteria, measurement, panel representation, payment terms and revenue share requirements that have gotten us here today. 

We need to remove these barriers within a tangible time period. You can say you’ll shift spend all you want, but if the commitment is not there, we can’t create real change. 

2. Democratize access

Creators of color and small business often do not have the resources to participate in larger industry efforts. Our coalition seeks to democratize access for suppliers that provide tremendous value to consumers of underrepresented communities, but are often overlooked when agencies complain about “lack of scale.” 

This openness and inquisition provides tremendous value to advertisers looking to innovate while disrupting traditional notions of scale and quality of supply.

3. Seek better accountability

We need to build more accountability with publicly or non-minority owned businesses that target consumers of color. 

We directly challenge our coalition members to reimagine hidden practices like supplier scorecards, revenue shares, hiring practices and contract rewards procedures that continue to tilt the ball toward traditional platforms. This is a critical aspect of “growing the pie” of opportunity and enabling fair economic benefit. 

4. Engage outside perspectives

It’s important to look outside your organization for a fresh perspective on what equitable investment looks like. By creating an open-source dialogue with industry bodies, national economists, supplier diversity experts and advertising scholars, we provide a more collaborative and unbiased perspective that allows us to focus on what matters most: long term and sustainable business growth.

Our early coalition engagement has surfaced several agreeable territories for change that we encourage the broader industry to consider, including accountable and integrated talent requirements, specific minority supplier investment goals and creating inclusive metrics to level the playing field for long overlooked diverse suppliers.

Over the next few months, the coalition will produce more solutions and invite more members to join our journey. We’re excited for what’s happening now and for what’s ahead.

Jason Smith is president, diversified investment, Spark Foundry and co-founder of Publicis Media's Once & For All Coalition.

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