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Omar Oakes 

The week in media: this is what grown-up industries do

The week in media: this is what grown-up industries do

We need more All In Reports and more CFlight-shaped initiatives to help solve our industry's challenges, writes the editor

“It’s nice to meet you, but I was expecting to see a big, Black guy.”

That was literally the first thing I remember a company leader saying to me upon meeting for the first (and last) time as I arrived for an introductory lunch five years ago.

There is no recording or a contemporaneous note of him saying this, so it wouldn’t be fair to name this person, but there was a PR on the table who heard him say it, too.

I still cringe for not making a big deal of it at the time; my knee-jerk reaction was to diffuse an awkward situation by making a joke about it. “Sorry to disappoint you!” was my pathetic attempt at a retort and then an otherwise forgettable meeting continued as normal.

The thing is, this person was trying to be funny. For this person, my name – a reflection of my dual heritage of Egyptian and White American parentage – conjured up another image entirely.

But imagine how much worse the stories are behind the data revealed in this week’s All In Census, which reported nearly a third (32%) of Black advertising sector employees are “likely” to quit over a lack of inclusion. It’s not much better for those of Asian heritage (27%), and is 10% for White employees.

Jan Gooding’s thoughtful piece on what companies in our industry should take away from this Census sounds a particular warning for well-intentioned CEOs that are looking to get their houses in order:

“Middle managers are very stretched already, and this is yet another demand for change they are being asked to deliver at pace. If they are not equipped with the training, time and financial resources they need (as well as the toolkits) it’s going to be pretty difficult for them to get it done.”

The numbers tell us broadly what was already known, in that companies have gotten much better at hiring more diverse workforces at entry level, but they are not rising to senior levels. Even accounting for those who are quitting over a lack of inclusion, there is no excuse for agencies and media owners to be interrogating the reasons why non-White talent does seem to rise as quickly.

The All In Report is an example of what a grown-up, responsible industry does when faced with a problem. Acknowledge there’s a problem, gather the data, and talk openly about what to do about it.

This Report was published a day after ITV, Channel 4 and Sky announced that Sky’s CFlight TV ad measurement tool would be a joint broadcast offer in the UK.

We already knew ITV and Channel 4 would adopt CFlight later this year, but this was a formal declaration of unity to solve the growing calls from marketers for simpler ad-buying across linear TV and video-on-demand (VOD).

Even though Sky’s Comcast stablemate NBCUniversal first developed CFlight, what the broadcasters have done quietly in the background over the last 18 months is extraordinary and world-leading.

It’s a common measurement platform for three different VOD platforms that is able to track the same ad viewed on ITV Hub, for example, and match it to Barb data without double-counting.

At a presentation hosted by Thinkbox this week, research directors from each of the Big Three were at pains to say CFlight is still far away from the finished article and they want agencies and advertisers to help them improve the product.

Once again, this is what grown-up, responsible industries do. Acknowledge there’s a problem, gather the data, and talk openly about what to do about it.

Raymond Snoddy observed that the UK’s major commercial broadcasters have been able to collaborate on a highly complex project despite operating in a heavily regulated TV market, where content is subject to compliance before broadcast and there are strict rules around ad lengths, costs and placements.

Perhaps it would not have happened without intensifying competition from US subscription TV or the ongoing fragmentation of video-watching audiences (again described by the latest Ofcom Online Nation report this week) to “platforms” like YouTube and TikTok.

However, it remains a source of irritation for the broadcasters that “platforms” are under far fewer commercial restrictions and their viewing numbers are not subject to independent scrutiny from a body like Barb.

Whether it’s trying to make our industry more inclusive, or more effective for marketers that want to embrace digital tools and be where audiences are migrating, we need more All In Reports and more CFlight initiatives that use quality data and open discussions to help solve our biggest problems.

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