Grey Matters: boycotting digital behemoths and strength in diversity

Shifting spend

In the latest NZ Marketing Agency Perceptions research, done in association with TRA, agencies were asked where they would be spending their media advertising budgets. The survey showed the intention to shift spend away from traditional media and towards digital channels. That was before the Christchurch mosque shootings. This week, in the wake of the mosque massacre, Burger King, Spark, Lotto, ASB and others announced that they are pulling their social media advertising. This followed a call by ANZA and the Commercial Communications Council for advertisers to think about where “their advertising dollars are spent, and carefully consider, with their agency partners, where their ads appear.”

As reported in Fortune, Kiwibank, and BNZ have also independently pulled most or all of their ads from Facebook, but Fortune comments that “it’s not yet clear how extensive the pull-back will be or how long the companies will abstain”.

I’m asking StopPress readers to tell us whether they think this shunning of social media advertising is a knee-jerk, short-term reaction, or whether the major advertisers will continue to have the courage of their convictions and keep their money away from Facebook, Google and YouTube.

According to IABNZ’s Internet Advertising Report for Q4 2018, total digital revenue in 2018 has reached $1.058 billion following four consecutive quarters of double-digit growth. How much is spent by New Zealand advertisers on Facebook and Google is uncertain with IAB chief executive Gill Stewart explaining to Damien Venuto at NZ Herald that the IAB’s revenue figure of $41.96 million for the social category doesn’t include the direct bookings made to Facebook through businesses and independent social media agencies. The IAB’s methodology to better measure social media revenue, is being reviewed.

Apart from this, there are more reasons to boycott the digital behemoths than the appalling handling of the shooter’s video. The Internet giants are already in the New Zealand Government’s sights, for their apparent tax avoidance, with Cabinet agreeing to investigate a new tax on multinational companies targeting digital revenues. As reported in the NZ Herald, although they said they didn’t want to name any companies, Revenue Minister Stuart Nash said “it would be reasonably obvious as to what companies would be targeted” – citing “social media companies”.

There is also the case to be made for the survival of local media. Far be it for me to promote a “buy New Zealand” campaign but when you add it all together, there is a case to be made for the longer-term shift of advertising spend from international social media channels to local media, social or otherwise.

DDB New Zealand chief executive Justin Mowday says in the latest NZ Marketing, “the pendulum swung too far [towards digital/individual personalised communication/programmatic niche targeting]and now most of those [Unilever and various others] brands have corrected their investment levels”.

According to Bernard Hickey, about NZ$800 million was spent by New Zealand advertisers on Google and Facebook last year. He tweeted that the government, local government and SOEs are probably spending $100 million of that. If the Prime Minister is serious, this would be a good place to start in redirecting budgets.

Strength in diversity

“We were looking for a long-term partner with the strategic and creative skills to help us extend our impact across a more culturally diverse audience,” said marketing and communications manager at WorkSafe Nicky Chilton, when announcing the appointment of FCB New Zealand to replace Assignment for the creative business of WorkSafe New Zealand.

Writing about the power of diversity in advertising, Graham Page, managing director of offer and innovation at Kantar Millward Brown, says: “Our research shows that inclusive ads are 25 percent more effective and more emotionally engaging than non-inclusive ads, and the least inclusive ads are less effective and generate the most negative emotional reactions.”

Extending the impact across a culturally diverse audience makes obvious sense. “Ads are often developed with only the target audience in mind,” says Page, identifying a common problem in advertising targeting. “Marketers need to realise that a much broader base of consumers will see their advertising. This is where testing creative executions across a diverse group of consumers can help identify what resonates.”

Advertising that portrays people as stereotypes will damage a brand’s reputation. These stereotypes can be gender, race or age-related. In August, Adweek published an article, It’s Time for Advertising to Stop Perpetuating Negative Stereotypes About Aging, in which Lauren Crichton made the point that, “older consumers offer huge spending power but are largely ignored”.

In the UK, ads will no longer be allowed to depict men and women in gender-stereotypical roles. The Advertising Standards Authority will enforce the new code from June 2019. Members of the public will be able to report adverts to the regulator if they feel they breach the code.

Whether the ASA here will be as tough has been questionable since ASA’s most complained about ads of 2016, Carl’s Jr. was ruled as, “not meeting the threshold to cause serious or widespread offense”.

Before the “PC gone mad” cohort get too excited, it is important to remember that revenue is where the rubber hits the road. “Diversity in ads is more important than ever for revenue,” writes Terilyn Walker on AspireIQ. “It’s 2018, but many marketers are still taking one too many tips from Don Draper’s brilliant, but outdated, marketing strategy. Being undiversified in ads is the old way of marketing.”

In New Zealand, in 2018, the Comms Council Inclusiveness and Diversity Group set a goal that all member agencies have an Inclusiveness and Diversity Policy. At the time, inclusiveness and diversity group chair Megan Clark said: “Inclusiveness and diversity go hand in hand – one cannot exist without the other – and assisting agencies with a toolkit to effect change in providing an inclusive workplace is a practical yet important tool to help agencies on the journey.”


While the Canterbury Crusaders are considering a name change, here is a quote from Adhere talking about things to consider when choosing a brand name: “Choose your words carefully during this phase of your brand development strategy. Different words can have different connotations to different people. You’ll want to make certain that your brand name is composed of strong, positive or descriptive words that won’t trigger any types of negative emotion. Your business doesn’t want that type of association. Be sure to check the meaning of the name in the languages and regions you intend to do business in.”

About Author

Graham Medcalf is a freelance writer and owner of Red Advertising.

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