Launching Multicultural Media Campaigns

A specialty at our firm is helping companies target niche audiences. One of our more challenging accounts has charged us with running a multicultural campaign targeting dozens of individual ethnic groups within the United States with just the right message. This type of campaign presents a different set of challenges from huge buys on the Web’s top sites. To help describe some of the challenges and tactics associated with running one of these campaigns I interviewed Barbara Wojslawowicz, one of our planners, who does a great job managing and optimizing these difficult multicultural campaigns.

Harry Gold: Who are you and what do you do?

Barbara Wojslawowicz: I’m an online media planner in the media department at Overdrive Interactive. I’m responsible for online, and sometimes offline, media strategy, planning, buying, and management for direct-response clients, primarily focused on multicultural advertising. Prior to Overdrive, I held online marketing positions at Digitas and First Night Boston.

HG: Why is multicultural advertising so important?

BW: Since each ethnic group responds to messaging differently, it’s important for advertisers to tailor products and subsequent advertising campaigns in culturally relevant media segments. The U.S. has always been referred to as a melting pot of ideas, religions, and cultures, and according to a recent Pew Research Center study entitled, “Immigration to Play Lead Role in Future U.S. Growth,” the pot is going to get even bigger. According to the study, “the population of the United States will rise to 438 million in 2050, from 296 million in 2005, and 82% of the increase will be due to immigrants arriving from 2005 to 2050 and their U.S.-born descendants…The Latino population, already the nation’s largest minority group, will triple in size.” This population boom will inevitably lead to increased spending on consumer goods from ethnic Americans. This presents a huge opportunity for companies to expand their product offerings and target their ad campaigns by ethnic group.

HG: In your experience, what channels have been the most successful in reaching your client’s ethnic markets in the U.S.?

BW: I look at my client’s multicultural campaigns holistically and incorporate offline and online elements into the media mix, depending who they want to target. For example, if your campaign is focused on reaching non-resident Indians (NRI), you need to consider who you want to reach in that ethnic group. A first-generation NRI may respond well to an ad placed on their favorite Bollywood channel or in a newspaper they pick up at the corner grocery store. However, their U.S.-born children may spend more of their time online reading cricket or Indian news sites and respond better to banner ads. In addition, NRIs place a strong emphasis on family and community. Purchases are often made by elders or based on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends, so it’s important to build brand trust and loyalty.

HG: How do you know where to advertise?

BW: Some of my clients’ target markets have smaller populations in the U.S., so the places where they want to advertise are more obscure. There are a couple of tricks in finding the most relevant media. The most effective way to find out where to advertise is to take a poll of popular media. Ask people in your client’s target market what types of media they rely on to keep up to date on news from back home. I also find relevant media by conducting online searches for the target market with a keyword that they may be interested in.

For example, if you type in “Ghana news” or “Ghana soccer” [in a search engine] Ghanaweb.com pops up for both searches. Since there are a couple of other sites that pop up under these searches, I will also go to traffic ranking sites such as Alexa and Quantcast to find the most relevant sites with U.S. visitors. I narrow down the media properties by looking at the content of the site, its ability to support ads, targeting capabilities, and the appearance of competitors and other U.S.-based advertisements.

HG: What are some challenges you have faced in planning, negotiating, and finalizing media plans with reps who are abroad?

BW: There are many factors that I need to take into consideration with communicating with reps abroad. These include the time difference, cultural and religious holidays, e-mail and Internet connections, and the ability to accept U.S. payment, creative restrictions, and cultural appropriateness.

HG: Are there cultural sensitivities you need to be aware of developing creative for the campaigns?

BW: I always ask my reps for advice with messaging and imagery to make sure the creative is culturally appropriate. When targeting a particular ethnic group, you have to be careful the creative is not offensive or confusing. If the copy needs to be translated into another language, instead of using a third-party translation service, I ask the reps to translate the ads. Since the reps will know your client’s product, they can help tweak the messaging if there isn’t a direct translation. They know better than anyone else what kind of offers and messaging will connect with their audience. It’s also important to maintain cultural consistency, from the banner creative through to the Web site. Abandonment rates will increase if the ads and landing pages aren’t custom tailored to each ethnic group.

HG: Is there a peak time to advertise multicultural campaigns?

BW: It depends on the product you’re selling, but one of my clients in the telecom industry has had lot success advertising around holidays when people call or send gifts to loved ones back home. However, you need to start increasing your ad impressions one to two months prior to the holidays. Many people take vacations or go home during the actual holiday and may not see your online advertising message if they are away from their computers.

HG: Can you list some tricks or best practices for planning a multicultural campaign to emerging ethnic groups in the United States?

BW: Sure, here are a few:

  • Get to know your client’s target markets by understanding how they respond to and consume media. Ask people what kind of media they rely on to stay up to date and conduct online searches for additional news-focused media.

  • Gather a list of cultural do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when developing creative. Befriend your reps and ask for creative feedback. They will be able to provide insight on messaging, offers, and imagery that will connect with audiences.
  • Become familiar with cultural and religious holidays that your reps celebrate. Build a relationship with them by sending well wishes.
  • Make sure the banners and landing pages maintain cultural relevancy through the transaction process.
  • Many sites require upfront payment to run a campaign. If that’s the case, sign a month-by-month contract. However, secure a three-day cancellation clause and set up a process for retrieving cancelled funds.
  • Ask reps for historical performance data to find spikes in page views and unique visitors. This will help determine the optimal time to launch and flight campaigns.

HG: Thanks, Barb. This is great information!

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