“DGR Quick Six” is a new monthly series that features one of the industry’s trendiest topics distilled into six hard-hitting questions answered by an in-the-field practitioner. This month, we’re talking all things diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).
In the progressive marketing landscape, diversity and inclusion are no longer optional: They're business imperatives. The integration of these values into strategic planning isn't just a trend; it's a transformational step toward unparalleled success. Specifically, companies with the highest levels of diversity and inclusion outperform their peers by 35% in financial performance.
However, according to a 2022 study by the American Marketing Association, 81% of B2B media buyers say DE&I is a top priority for their team, but only 62% actually have a formal DE&I strategy in place. This can result in missed opportunities for growth and connection with a diverse customer base, ultimately limiting their potential for long-term success.
To help organizations better embrace diversity and inclusion initiatives, Cognitiv, a deep learning AI provider, released two new features that enable more diverse and inclusive (D&I) media buying. The Inclusivity feature uses GPT technology to “read” content and determine whether the language is inclusive, neutral or non-inclusive, while the Diversity feature analyzes visitor demographics to determine whether advertisements authentically connect with multicultural groups.
Dr. Aaron Andalman, Cognitiv’s Chief Science Officer and Co-Founder, explained that brands’ D&I media buying goals have been notoriously difficult to achieve, but recent advances in large language models allow a richer, more nuanced, understanding of page content. To discuss the new solutions and better understand current DE&I trends, the Demand Gen Report team sat down with Dr. Andalman to learn more.
Demand Gen Report: What factors led to the creation of the Diversity and Inclusivity features?
Dr. Aaron Andalman: Cognitiv's latest Diversity and Inclusivity features evolved from industry-focused conversations that sales and leadership teams had with clients and partners. The team recognized a common theme woven throughout these conversations: A gap in media buying, as brands have D&I media buying goals that are difficult to achieve. Cognitiv felt we were uniquely positioned to help close this gap because of our use of large language models (LLMs), so we built a solution that leverages LLMs’ more nuanced understanding of page content to help brands achieve D&I goals.
The innovative use of GPT AI for Inclusivity provides an intuitive understanding of a page’s intent, giving brands access to suitable and relevant content for the first time at scale. Brands will now be better able to actively buy inclusive or neutral media aligned with their unique brand values and avoid non-inclusive media.
DGR: How do you see these two releases reshaping the industry?
Dr. Andalman: These releases are helping to evolve the industry in a couple of ways. First, we are empowering advertisers to find brand suitable places for their own content and to reach more diverse audiences — programmatically and at scale. This opens a new layer of the DE&I conversation for brands in the form of context.
Second, we are using deep learning — GPT AI — to completely reinvent the way that content and context are evaluated. GPT AI understands language at a level that is much more nuanced, which unlocks a host of new opportunities. Brands no longer have to rely on keywords and URLs to target content; they can have AI “read” pages for them at enormous scale.
DGR: How would you rate marketers’ current ability to create inclusive and diverse advertising content? What factors contributed to your rating?
Dr. Andalman: We see advertisers putting in a lot of work to create inclusive and diverse creative for channels like display and video advertising. A study found that 90% of advertisers feel that diversity in advertising is a priority, which is the first step toward progress. However, we still have work to do to achieve this goal, because only three out of five global consumers feel represented in the advertising they are exposed to.
There is more to achieving diversity than fair representation in creative. Media buying, for example, still favors content from the major media companies, while multicultural and independent content is under-represented. While we have made some progress, an ANA study in 2019 found that while multicultural consumers comprise 40% of the adult population, multicultural media investments totaled only 5.2% of total media spend.
DGR: Although the answer might seem obvious, I’d love to get your opinion: Why is it so important for organizations to ensure that their content is inclusive and diverse?
Dr. Andalman: In addition to the general best practice of treating everyone equally and representing everyone fairly, there is evidence that it is good for business. By underspending on inclusive content, brands miss out on reaching a huge percentage of their multicultural audience. Today’s multicultural population represents a huge opportunity: The buying power for African American, Asian American and Native American consumers increased from $458 billion in 1990 to $3 trillion in 2020. Hispanic buying power also has grown substantially over the last 30 years, from $213 billion in 1990 to $1.9 trillion in 2020.
Consumers are more likely to buy from companies that represent them in advertising. For example, 69% of Black consumers said they would be more likely to buy from a brand that positively reflects their race or ethnicity.
DGR: Beyond content, are there any other steps you think organizations need to take to promote diversity and inclusion?
Dr. Andalman: Representation in advertising and context create a unified brand experience that drives higher performance. Media buyers can get better results if they focus on contextually relevant placements for their creative. Research shows that context contributes to a number of advertiser KPIs including memorability, purchase intent and favorability.
It is important for marketers to work with partners that enable them to put their messages of diversity and inclusion in context. For example, advertisers want to work with publishers who have inclusive content, or at least avoid non-inclusive content. After the work and care that is put into their own creative, having this contextual connection is important.