Brand Advance EMEA chief: Gal-dem’s closure shows we have a huge problem
The Media Leader Interview
Deborah Gbadamosi, EMEA CEO for global diversity media network Brand Advance, warns that advertisers and their agencies still need “a lot of education” to understand the concept of integration and inclusive planning.
‘Responsible media should be a line item on a plan, as opposed to a completely separate plan that gets defunded when there are other priorities.”
This is according to Deborah Gbadamosi, who joined global diversity media network Brand Advance Group in January. She believes brands and agencies still need “a lot of education” to understand the concept of integration and inclusive planning.
Gbadamosi explains: “If you are planning everything from an inclusive perspective, if you’ve got an inclusive plan, then if you’re making cuts, everything should come down in a representative way, as opposed to just going in and saying ‘can’t do that’ and ‘this whole bit is coming out’.”
In tough times, these cuts also happen to other channels like digital, out-of-home and social, as the temptation is for marketers to “stick with the formula” and put everything on TV because of its reach, and cut everything else, Gbadamosi points out.
Part of this is just a typical part of budget cycles and market forces which “happen in business no matter what”, she says, with Q1 starting strongly, and then cuts coming in Q2, and spend flooding back in in Q3 and Q4. However, a lack of adspend is “increasingly a problem” for minority-owned and operated media, she stresses.
One example was Gal-dem which went under earlier this year, but others have fallen, too. Gbadamosi admits that a number of Brand Advance’s network of 1,200-strong network of publishers, including “quite a few” from its disability stable, have also ceased trading.
Gbadamosi remarks: “Gal-dem going under was a big sign to me that there’s a huge problem, because it was one of the most popular publications that’s available. For it to go under is a sign that we’re not getting enough funding, there’s not enough advertising dollars flowing into that direction, so there’s still a lot that we need to do. We need to try our best to encourage those more smaller publishers to be included in some of those inclusion lists.”
Those advertiser inclusion lists normally include the top 250 publishers based on trusted journalism, quality content, and Trustworthy and Accountability Group (Tag) and ABC certification.
Building on conversations it had at the Cannes Lions festival in June, Brand Advance wants to “create a level playing field” working with TAG, advertiser trade body Isba, and the British Standards Institution to build an industry-wide framework for smaller publishers.
She explains: “We want to create an environment where the smaller publishers, particularly those who are the minority owned and operated, can also benefit from those ad dollars because they also have quality journalism, they also are TAG and ABC certified and verified, they also have a trusted environment where brands can reach audiences in a considered way.
“So that’s a big piece, because that’s actually going to try and plug a hole where the long tail gets chopped, for good reasons, but with the chopping you lose all those minority owned and operated media so the dollars can never really flow. It’s just keeping the money in this tight circle.”
Expand internationally by growing locally
Despite this difficult environment for smaller publishers and minority owned and operated media, BA Group is on course to double its revenue next year, seeming to indicate a shift in the brand intention action gap.
Gbadamosi heads a team of 30 people in Europe which span BA Group’s projects from Cultural Intelligence to Brand Advance Creative and Brand Advance SSP.
There are imminent plans to open up offices in Madrid and Manchester over the next year, adding to locations in London, New York, Berlin, Paris and Mumbai, with demand coming from global clients for local services by country.
Gbadamosi says that there is “still a lot of work to do to unlock” what diversity looks like in each country, and that the growth opportunity is making sure BA Group has representation in those markets so that they can have “representative conversations”.
After Spain, she sees more regions in continental Europe as the main opportunity, with France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium in her sights, but cautions that this expansion will be carried out in “a very considered way” rather than “switching on everything in one go”.
She highlights questions that arise from clients do have common themes like how to reach diverse audiences in a brand safe and non-offensive way, without appearing to be “washing of any format, whether this is green, rainbow, or woke”.
Gbadamosi acknowledges this area is “a very minefield-led environment and for all the right reasons”, adding: “You’ve got to be careful. It’s a very sensitive area, you’re dealing with people’s culture and identity, so you have to be very careful about how you navigate the space.”
The next generation of media planners and buyers
Amongst her priorities, Gbadamosi also wants to do more in the wholesale education space for the next generation of marketers, media planners and buyers around responsible media.
BA Group has been working with the IAA on creating a module on responsible media for one of its courses next year, something which she describes as “a big win” and “a huge milestone” to educate people early in their career.
“The more we can leverage that and do more of that with other industry bodies, the more we will be able to really start to start to plant the seed of responsible media early in people’s careers, and then hopefully, they’ll grow with that mindset.”