Nielsen has a plan to help advertisers spend more with diverse-owned media companies

The measurement firm is looking to remove some of the barriers that have traditionally impeded investment.
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Francis Scialabba

· 6 min read

In the wake of nationwide protests against police violence and racial injustice in 2020, major agencies and brands pledged to spend more with media companies owned by people from underrepresented backgrounds. Now, ahead of the 2022 upfront season, Nielsen is rolling out initiatives designed to drive more ad dollars to diverse-owned media.

The measurement firm in February debuted an initiative—dubbed the Diverse Media Equity Program—for both buyers and sellers to try to alleviate some of the roadblocks that diverse-owned media companies can face when seeking to attract investment from advertisers and their agencies, said Stacie M. de Armas, SVP of diverse intelligence and initiatives at Nielsen.

On the buy side, Nielsen is developing reports and metrics aimed at giving agencies and advertisers additional data they can use to plan buys across diverse-owned media companies, whether they’re local TV stations, streaming platforms, or radio stations.

On the supply side, Nielsen has developed a fund geared toward financially supporting diverse-owned media companies as they seek out sometimes costly third-party certifications to prove that they are minority-owned, which can often allow them to capture more ad dollars.

A long time coming

Nielsen began fielding requests from advertisers and agencies in mid-2020, following widespread protests. At the time, de Armas said, Nielsen realized it didn’t have all the answers that they sought.

“There were, first, some real operational questions—like, who are diverse-owned [companies], and how are they certified, and what sort of certifications are there?” de Armas explained.

Advertisers and agencies wanted to know which companies were diverse-owned media suppliers and what they could expect in terms of audience reach, de Armas said. She found that some diverse-owned media companies didn’t meet the criteria that many advertisers and agencies were looking for, including third-party certifications. And some weren't providing metrics from widely used measurement firms, she said.

Overall, there is limited data on the amount of money spent with certified diverse-owned media companies, de Armas said, but brands have historically spent few ad dollars on them. Last year, GroupM got commitments from 20 clients to invest at least 2% of their annual media budgets in Black-owned media, while IPG Mediabrands pledged to allocate a minimum of 5% of total media spend to Black-owned media by 2023.

Nielsen has tried to make those commitments easier to fulfill by looking at both sides of the equation. For suppliers, the firm is looking to expand the number of certified entities by defraying the cost of becoming one. Nielsen and Procter & Gamble have together seeded a $130,000 program that will reimburse companies for the fees that the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) charges when verifying whether companies meet the requirements to be certified as Minority Business Enterprises—a designation de Armas said often needed before major agencies will spend using budgets earmarked for diverse spending. Those application fees can range from a few hundred dollars to more than a thousand dollars, depending on the annual revenue of the organization, de Armas explained.

In addition, Nielsen is offering pro-bono consulting to help some suppliers understand the ins and outs of media measurement and the requirements for agency investment. And instead of waiting for suppliers to come to them—“sort of a legacy policy,” de Armas said—it’s also begun proactive outreach, offering to monitor data and show diverse-owned suppliers how Nielsen data can benefit them free of charge to start.

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“We’re working with consulting with our clients directly, not only on how we can make the data have better utility for them, but how we can help them tell their story and capture some of those record dollars,” de Armas explained. “Because we also know when our clients do well, we do well.”

Some diverse-owned media companies are already seeing positive results. Canela Media, a Latina-owned media company that targets Hispanic viewers, has tripled the number of campaigns measured by Nielsen since signing onto the firm’s pilot program earlier this year.

“We’re excited about Nielsen’s commitment to bringing more visibility and support to minority owned businesses,” Isabel Rafferty, the founder and CEO of Canela Media, said in an emailed statement. “Our partnership with Nielsen has enabled us to deliver the granular level of transparency and measurement our clients demand. Nielsen has been a tremendous partner; they understand our business and offer us valuable insight for campaign optimization and advertising efficacy.”

Data on diverse suppliers

On the buy-side, Nielsen has an ongoing project aimed at quantifying the effects of spending with diverse-owned media—and reminding ad buyers that “diverse-owned does not necessarily infer diverse-targeted,” de Armas said. A February report, the first of many, aggregates audience and reach data from minority-owned commercial ad-supported media suppliers in television and radio, providing media buyers with information about the impact of spending with diverse-owned media suppliers.

Among the findings:

  • Viewers of Black-owned networks are 18% more likely to have a traditional cable package than the general market, and they are less likely to use TV-connected devices or subscription streaming services than TV households overall.
  • Viewers of Hispanic-owned local TV stations are 95% more likely to shop for pet supplies than the general population. 
  • Viewers of Asian American-owned local TV stations in the 48 top markets where those stations are present are 50% more likely than the general population to shop for clothes.
  • Viewers of Native American-owned local TV are 27% more likely than the general population to have shopped for jewelry in the past three months.

The comprehensive report aims to highlight the multitudinous ways buyers can leverage diverse-owned media buys for their own audience and reach goals.

Just as she thinks it will help the buy-side, de Armas is hopeful the report will allow diverse-owned suppliers to “better position themselves” outside of ratings data.

Agencies are already using the data to help inform their buying decisions.

Lisa Torres is the president of Publicis Media’s multicultural practice, Cultural Quotient, which is working on its own multiyear effort to up ad spend with minority-owned and targeted media organizations.

“We are still reviewing the findings and exploring potential impact on our strategies, but we’re excited about these new data sets and Nielsen’s efforts mark an important step forward for our industry when it comes to mapping out solutions for diverse-owned media measurement and reporting,” Torres told Marketing Brew in an email.

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