Advertising Guest Columns
4 mins read

The rise of ethical advertising

Around 80% of global digital ad spend goes to the walled gardens, despite people actually spending half their time outside of these ecosystems on the open internet. The imbalance means that advertisers are failing to consistently reach audiences in the right places online, and smaller, niche publishers are missing out on the investment they need to continue delivering free premium content. Tools exist for brands to easily deliver on their diversity promises on the open internet while being authentic and genuine in their delivery, advertisers now have no reason not to reconsider where their ad spend goes.

Tearing down the walls

The need for brands to reach audiences across a more diverse range of publications has never been more important, not only in keeping the open internet alive but to engage with increasingly socially-conscious consumers.

One of the biggest ways a media plan can be diversified is through advertising on minority-owned publications, which not only helps to create a diverse media plan for the advertiser, but also shows their support for a diverse and representative open web.

The first step that advertisers must take on this journey is ensuring that their approaches to keyword blocklists and brand safety reflect the world we now live in. Because having a strategy to reach certain communities but not being able to reach them, due to outdated practices, is as bad as not having a strategy at all.

Keyword blocklists can often end up blocking brand-safe content that vital communities engage with. As a result, many blocklists are at odds with the very idea of diverse media plans.

Brands should be looking to embrace socially-conscious messaging and values, rather than trying to avoid aligning themselves with a particular cause. As such, they should be auditing their blocklists in the DSP, or shift their focus to more contextually progressive solutions and remove their blocklists altogether.

Engaging with minority-owned publishers

Having the blocklists in check is just part of the process. The creative execution of a plan is just as important. Any messaging that a brand delivers on a minority-owned publication should be genuine, authentic, and personalized to the audience being targeted. It’s fair to say that no one knows their community quite like those whose job it is to reflect and write for them. Media owners are well placed to help advise how best to authentically interact and where a brand’s messaging will resonate most.

In order to be genuine and authentic, brands should be guaranteeing that their creative teams are as diverse as the audiences they’re trying to reach. Representation is just as significant in decision-making positions as it is within the media itself. Consumers are extremely savvy when it comes to a brand just posturing to boost sales, and they’re unlikely to buy from any business that doesn’t genuinely align with their social views.

Meanwhile, personalization requires testing to identify what types of creative resonate most with the target audience. For example, a brand may want to reach black-owned publications. The easiest way to do this would be to combine the media properties into one deal ID after carefully selecting which properties will align well. By doing so, we can increase the efficiency of buying inventory across those titles and, in turn, make it easier to test and learn at scale.

This curation of titles would also benefit advertisers from a transparency standpoint because they would be able to see where their ads are running and know exactly how much money they are putting into minority-owned publications.

Moreover, having this money flow into the more niche areas of the open internet is the only way to keep it operating in the way it currently does. Most of the internet exists thanks to advertising. If you take that away, then it means consumers have to pay to access the content. This may not be financially viable for a lot of people, and it will force others to be selective in the publications they subscribe to. As a result, the smaller, niche publications are likely to struggle to encourage consumers to choose them over the bigger titles with a broader range of content. So, the ad-funded model of the open internet not only means diversity of content and voices, but it also means diversity of the audience.

It’s time for brands to truly align their diversity strategy across their entire business, rather than being performative in their actions. Now, more than ever, brands need to be looking to support a more diverse range of publishers.

A diversity strategy isn’t just about hiring processes or ensuring diversity in the advertising workforce. It’s also about supporting the publications owned and run by diverse communities. Doing so keeps these publications afloat, keeps the internet free, and ensures the brand is reaching a wider audience.

Colette Munnelly
Senior Solutions Engineer, Xandr

A business unit within AT&T, Xandr powers a global marketplace for premium advertising. Our data-enabled technology platform, encompassing Xandr Invest and Xandr Monetize, optimizes return on investment for both buyers and sellers. For more than 143 years, AT&T has used data and technology to inform and improve the consumer experience.