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Why do advertisers block out so many valuable audiences?

07 Feb 2020  |  Michaela Jefferson 
Why do advertisers block out so many valuable audiences?

Discovering that brand-safety keyword blocking was excluding him and the LGBT+ community from seeing advertising "hurt more than getting blown up in Iraq", a former SAS soldier turned ad man said this week.

Speaking at the Future of Brands London, Christopher Kenna - CEO and co-founder at global diversity media network Brand Advance - claimed advertisers could be excluding up to 70% of the LGBT+ community, with a recent Vice Media report revealing that the word "Gay" is blocked more often than "Rape", "Death", "Heroin" and "Gun".

With the LGBT+ community worth $3.7 trillion globally, advertisers are therefore failing to reach a market which would rank as the world's fifth largest country in terms of GDP.

Overzealous keyword blocking has been an ongoing issue of contention for digital publishers, with millions lost in ad revenue as brands and agencies block terms such as "sperm whale", "shoot", "Star Wars" and even "Pepper Pig".

However, by blocking words associated with the LGBT+ community, advertisers are also blocking entire publications which directly speak to that audience - such as Gay Times and DIVA.

According to the 2019 ASA Report, consumers who perceive ads as being "culturally relevant" are 2.6 times more likely to find the brand relevant to them, and therefore 2.7 times more likely to purchase a brand for the first time. They are also 50% more likely to repurchase a brand they have bought in the past.

"If I'm sat on the tube reading the Metro and Landrover has an interracial same-sex couple in the car, I don't think you're trying to sell to me. I think you're trying to tell the straight guy next to me that Landrover accepts me," Kenna said.

"Take that ad and stick it in Gay Times or contextually relevant media and straight away it's selling to me... [because] it's in a contextually relevant environment. You don't have to tell other people like me that you're accepting me."

Yet, as a former commercial director of Gay Times, Kenna said he was forced to haggle with media agencies over £500 for a double page spread - even though the agency was willing to spend £30,000 at GQ to reach the same number of people.

Kenna co-founded Brand Advance in 2017 to help brands connect with diverse audiences, with services across digital, OOH, print, content creation and consultation. The business works with brands including Diageo, Unilever and GSK.

"Forgetting moral reasons [to invest adspend in diverse publications], big demographics are being missed because of keyword blocking... because of where media placement is [and] the media that agencies actually work with and don't work with."

Elsewhere, Lydia Amoah - author of the Black Pound Report - outlined how brands are missing out on reaching black and minority ethnic consumers - despite making up 41% of London's 8.8 million population.

According to the report, 70% of BAME respondents said they do not feel valued as a consumer in the UK, while 66% are not fully satisfied with the current ethnic representation on UK mainstream TV, including ads.

With black women in the UK accounting for 80% of total hair product sales, Amoah asked: "Why can't I just turn the television on and see a product for my hair?"

"You have to understand your audiences. We just want you to relate to us, to sit down with us [and] have a conversation. We then want you to stand up with us, keep the conversation going, and then walk with us," she said, adding that the "multicultural pound" is worth $3.4 trillion globally.

"Ultimately you are going to make more money"

Meanwhile, Brand Advance announced that it is launching a £100k fund for any new publications targeting diverse audiences.

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