Let’s think communities, not audiences

Let’s think communities, not audiences

Putting spend into minority-owned channels that are leading and credible is a trick that too many brands have missed for too long.


If we’ve learned anything in the last two years, it’s the power of communities. They’re what kept us (mostly) sane during Covid. We also discovered that enduring brands and agencies don’t just succeed by reaching audiences; they succeed by engaging, supporting – and sometimes creating – those very communities.

Today, the technology and appetite exist to build relationships with communities in more relevant and authentic ways than ever before – and that means we can reach audiences and media channels that have historically been under-served by advertisers.

Data-driven insight means brands can engage with community-owned media to both raise awareness of and address relevant issues on a practical basis.

And ‘community-owned’ is an important thing to remember: yes, mainstream media might effectively reach groups like LGBTQ+ consumers, but do they have the engagement, impact and relevance of a focused and community-owned platform like Gay Times? Perhaps more importantly, does using that platform support the community? I believe so.

Relevant media = relevant messaging

For example, Nicorette built the ‘Quitting Buddies’ campaign around quitting smoking with Gay Times based on the insights that this audience have a much higher propensity to be smokers (46% more likely, in fact) than the general population.

However, they’d previously been ignored by smoking cessation campaigns – and with smoking rates on the rise again as a result of the pandemic, isn’t it important to directly engage the most affected groups?

This then highlighted another value from partnering with specialist media – Gay Times’ creative team were able to identify, create and build a campaign that they knew would be authentic and resonate with that audience while also being relevant and appropriate for the needs of the brand.

Under-represented communities need brand support and guidance, and a key element is to ensure they maintain a voice by directing adspend to the publishers serving them. The insight comes from identifying the right group as well as the right media to reach them – so if a company makes a product aimed at individuals with thick, curly hair, perhaps they would do well to talk to a media partner like Gal-Dem, who are leading the conversation with women of colour.

In addition, media like Amaliah, the platform dedicated to amplifying the voices of Muslim women, or Gay Times aren’t just relevant and authentic – they truly know their audience and can help brands who fear mis-stepping. Should the business want to engage Muslims during Ramadan, should their marketing efforts position that period as an observance or a celebration? Getting it wrong can alienate half your audience from the get-go.

Affecting real change at the local level

Supporting communities through ad spend can work by geography as well as through ethnic and gender demographics. The ‘brand-to-local’ experience is seeing many global brands start to think granular when it comes to regional targeting.

For instance, new opportunities exist for postcode marketing offered by addressable TV. Global and national brands, as well as high street businesses like estate agents and independent retailers, are now able to use traditional TV advertising to reach local neighbourhoods in an affordable way that would have been unthinkable ten years ago.

Similarly, out-of-home is a channel that neatly targets local communities while also supporting them, as any ad expenditure on billboards and bus stops often goes into councils’ coffers to spend on local services.

We’ve seen first-hand that regional agency offices can often help provide on-the-ground knowledge and understanding of the local market and media landscape, particularly when it comes to mid-lower funnel activity that requires laser-sharp focus. Brands like estate agent groups and food home delivery companies, which rely on differentiating the needs of consumers from street to street, are looking for media support that matches hyper-local needs.

Doing the right thing?

It’s also worth bearing in mind that supporting under-represented communities, through the media they consume and the ads they view, could even be seen as helping to fulfil a brand’s CSR and ESG objectives.

Media is a force for good, yet this isn’t about doing the right thing for its own sake. These are often also some of the most lucrative and engaged audiences a brand could hope to get on board. Quite simply, relevance drives engagement, and engagement drives preference and sales.

Brands are often looking to build communities of their own, but whether they’re targeting those or an existing group, it’s important to identify and work with the media that will make the biggest difference. Putting spend into minority-owned channels that are leading and credible is a trick that too many brands have missed for too long.

Enyi Nwosu is chief strategy officer at media agency UM

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