The X factor in multicultural media planning and buying

Sheba Nandkeolyar

Sheba is the co-founder and CEO of MultiConnexions Group. Sheba leads multicultural strategy as well as media innovation in the agency. She is a director of IAA Australia and an advisory board member of Media Diversity Australia.

Programmatic is the miracle baby, and it is great in theory, don’t get me wrong.  

We often hear the benefits of automatically purchasing digital media advertising through programmatic touted by advertising and digital marketing agencies, including ourselves at MultiConnexions. It is time saving, less manual, the cost per impression is lower than buying from publishers directly. There is more data and insights as well as improved tracking. And amid the coronavirus pandemic with everyone cooped up at home on their home PC, laptop, tablet or phone, it’s the go-to digital solution to save time for every marketer, right?  

In theory, yes. But in practice, there is one single critical factor I find often trumps all other success factors in larger-scale marketing and advertising buying. This X factor is the cultural factor. This factor is not just essential, it becomes critical when targeting multicultural audiences.  

Multicultural audiences are no longer niche in Australia. According to Census 2016, nearly half of Australians were either born overseas or had one or both parents born overseas. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of people who spoke a language other than English at home increased by 301,402 or 21.2 per cent – a huge jump.  

We are an extremely culturally and linguistically diverse country. But culture goes way beyond just the language one speaks or the country one is born in. Purchases and behaviors are strongly influenced by unique and highly nuanced cultural factors. To put it simply, the cultural factor makes us who we are.  

So, in these rapidly changing and deeply challenging times, it is high time for marketers to look beyond the tried and tested to more strategic opportunities. Now, more than ever, it is critical not to go for the easy solution, but to go for the most effective one. The stakes are incredibly high – we need to ‘box clever’ or we risk going extinct in an agency/marketing bloodbath.  

In the present critical situation, media buying of any budget, for any campaign, on any topic needs to be able to cut through. Does programmatic cut through?  

I have been keenly watching the efforts of various public and private sector organisations in recent weeks hurriedly trying to reach all Australians with the supremely important health messages relating to COVID-19. I must confess, what I have seen has been a bit hit and miss.  

A second-generation Indian origin son of a close friend, although deeply and closely connected to his culture, was served ads in Hindi – a language he does not speak. Hence, the language insights were lacking.  

Other examples of programmatic fails range from the amusing at best, to inappropriate, to deeply offensive at the other end of the spectrum.  

A Hindi-speaking friend of mine was served a digital ad in Hindi warning travellers to Australia not to bring in food items. Great. The problem? The ad featured images of pork. Very few Indians eat pork in their country-of-origin, let alone would consider importing it into Australia. Pigs often breed in dirt in India and therefore many Indians avoid it. Message relevance totally lacking. Cultural insights lacking. What a waste of advertising budget.  

A colleague was served Chinese-language automobile ads on politically sensitive Chinese websites. Context lacking. And this one, pictured below. Words fail me. 

 

Image Source: Adscam

 

If you’re an agency or marketer incentivised only by efficient delivery, programmatic is the kind of campaign you will want to keep on your books even when the effect is to alienate, confuse or offend your multicultural audiences. We will be here to catch you when you inevitably fall with multicultural audiences.

If you’re an agency or marketer incentivised by achieving a strong impact, winning customers’ hearts and minds, building relationships that translate into strong sales, I urge you to evaluate your multicultural media buy.

Tags: advertising, digital advertising, marketing campaigns, multiculturalism

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