Brands must be braver with culturally relevant campaigns
A view from Debarshi Pandit

Brands must be braver with culturally relevant campaigns

When discussing diversity within advertising, ethnicity rarely gets a share of voice, writes Sky Media's head of multicultural.

As millions of people celebrated the Hindu festival of Diwali last week, the industry has been talking about diversity this year more than ever before. Equal pay for women in the workforce has been debated at length and a smattering of campaigns have attempted to remove female, LGBT and disability stereotypes.

But this isn’t enough.  

When discussing diversity within advertising, ethnicity rarely gets a share of voice which is alarming given the number of people in the UK from an ethnic background. For context, the ethnic population in the UK is as big as the combined population of Scotland and Wales put together and over a third of people in the UK were born in another country – half of whom arrived in the UK in the last decade.   

According to the IPA, the ethnic audience has a purchasing power valued at around £300bn. And this will increase as more and more migrants settle in the UK over the coming years.

Brands need to be braver to create culturally relevant campaigns that attract this lucrative audience. As it stands, a staggering 77% of British Asians say mainstream advertising has no relevance to them (Source: IPA).

This isn’t surprising given that every year, the industry pulls its resources and budgets together to focus on developing show-stopping Christmas campaigns. Last year, UK Christmas adspend hit a record high of £5.6bn. If this trend continues, brands will be missing out on opportune moments to target other festivities throughout the year such as Diwali and Eid. In fact, there are 25 key festivities celebrated over the course of the year.

Aligning your brand with religious and cultural holidays builds a stronger emotional bond with relevant audiences as they will be more responsive to targeted messages that resonate for them on a more personal level. In 2015, the holy month of Ramadan led to £100m incremental sales in the UK’s fiercely competitive supermarket sector.

British Airways is a great example of a brand that has recently done this well by appealing to the Asian community. The airline identified that a growing number of customers were Indian ex-pats in North America who were flying home at least once a year. It ran a campaign to honour the real reason people made the journey home – to compensate for the cost of separation. The campaign used an emotive creative with an Indian mother preparing a surprise meal for her son which was going to be delivered direct to New York by British Airways. Through the campaign, British Airways grew by around 65% during a period when the category only grew by 1.3%, translating to $22.2m (£16.8m) in incremental revenue.

When campaigns such as this used highly selective targeting, it can significantly improve campaign results. The growth in addressable TV is already proving that targeting at scale in a brand safe environment is possible with market segmentation such as ethnic characteristics, lifestyle and postcodes. This ensures a higher degree of effectiveness for the overall brand resonance.

Today, Sky and other digital TV providers can offer a number of ethnic channels which are currently largely untapped by mainstream brands. Targeting these channels can provide a cost-effective avenue for future growth as the ethnic TV market has huge potential in the UK but is under represented in many media plans. 

Debarshi Pandit is head of multicultural at Sky Media

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