If media planners don’t know how minority ethnic audiences think, how can they ever fulfil their ambition to equalise their creative?

That is a question posed by the forthcoming Black Pound Report, a research initiative from Backlight, a culture change agency encouraging brands to unlock what is estimated to be a £300 billion Black, Asian and multi-ethnic consumer market.

But Backlight did not just set out to produce one-off research. It also aims to plug what is seen as a gap in the presence of Black, Asian and multi-ethnic consumers in media insights.

In doing so, it has turned its survey of 3,400 consumers from those groups into a media planning tool, available to brands and agencies via News UK, Backlight’s sponsor, from November 2021.

In a live discussion hosted by Campaign magazine, a cross-section of industry representatives previewed research findings and discussed the importance of rebalancing planning data.

Ensure all audiences are seen

Lydia Amoah, CEO, Backlight

“Black, Asian and multi ethnic-consumers communities are 60% more likely to be reading more print and online. Are you speaking to that audience? Because that’s a big, huge number.

“Thirty-four percent are spending more time reading newspapers in print and online.

“You have to talk to all of your audiences and understand them.

“When you have stats, then you can then tell a story and you can then bring it more to life.”

Correct the media planning bias

Shelley Bishton, head of creative diversity, News UK

“Research samples do not need to have any quota on race, ethnicity and disability. This literally blew my mind when Backlight and the team made me aware of this. How can research ever be representative of the nation?

“What I quickly realised after taking the role was just how little research and information there is out there on Black, Asian and multi-ethnic groups. Considering the census said that these groups make 11% in the UK and 40% in London, I was just astounded.

“Sometimes, when we look at race and ethnicity, it’s never put in alphabetical order (in surveys). “White” might appear at the top. How uninviting is that, if you’re Black and Asian?

“We’re going to be utilising these findings, we’re going to be putting into all areas of our business.”

Connecting new insights to established tools

Tim Noblett, market research consultant, Backlight

“Marketers, brands and planners rely on research. As we started to work with different research agencies, what was very apparent was there was a lack of understanding of this audience and a lack of representation on research panels.

“We managed to get over 3,400 respondents answering 90 questions across everything from that top-line media consumption, their demographics, their work status, income, along with attitudes and behaviours in terms of retail, what are their brand influences? Then we did three deep dives: health and beauty, travel, and finance.

“We designed the survey in a way that provided much more in-depth analysis of these audiences that are often not analysed, but also ensures that we could work with partners like Telmar to match this data to more traditional data sources.

“We are in the process of building a media planning tool that will give access to all 3,400 respondents and then their media consumption via IPA TouchPoints, which is a really exciting position to be in terms of unlocking the potential of this audience for insight.”

Understanding must augment knowing

Brendan Judge, planning director, News UK Commercial

“We’ve been long frustrated that the established demographic surveys and segmentations simply don’t reflect the huge spectrum of what our society looks like today.

“Buying TV, I was always frustrated about demographics like ‘female main shopper’. How can I even interrogate an audience like that?

“The attitudes and behavioral differences within those ethnic groups aren’t understood or recognised. A recent McKinsey report suggested one in six people in the UK identify as Black, Asian or multi-ethnic. Nearly 70% of them don’t feel UK media is relevant to them. When they’ve got combined spending power that runs into the billions, it’s easy to see the business sense of studies like this.

“It’s vital for us as a planning team that we develop a detailed picture of who our audience is. The Black Pound Report will enrich our planning capabilities and it will make our solutions not only more diverse and inclusive but, crucially, more effective.”

Don’t ignore the growth opportunity

Ete Davies, CEO, Engine Group

“For those that get it right, there is significant market headroom and opportunity.

“Last year’s report quoted about £300 billion collective spending of Black, Asian and ethnic groups. That’s a significant amount of spending for brands to be missing out on through advertising that’s just not relevant and meaningful.

“The BPR is pretty critical to make sure there’s the right consideration and information going to work and seems quite critical at the research planning and creative stages to capitalise on the growth opportunity.

“If you want to grow, you need to be paying attention to the information.”

Listening can create inspiring campaigns

Katharine Joy Newby Grant, vice president, beauty care, Northern Europe, Procter & Gamble

“It’s not just about having the right products. It’s about having the right advertising, representative advertising across the full spectrum of humankind.

“On Pantene, we created a campaign, My Hair Won’t Be Silenced, which came out of research.

“I was personally horrified when I heard 93% of Black people with Afro hair have experienced microaggressions. So we created a campaign which really helps to educate those who’ve never experienced it.

“We are deeply committed, and we have to create a more equal world. That’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the right human thing to do. But, equally, it is a clear business opportunity.”

Representation requires broader data

Dino Myers-Lamptey, founder, The Barber Shop

“There are so many data points that media planners and marketers are using that are just not sufficient, they’re just not representative enough of the population that we need to be speaking to. I think that presents a problem.

“These statistics show that there is an audience that needs to be spoken to in an authentic way and how valuable they are to brands.

“One worrying thing is whether people who want and recognise the change have the ability to make the change. They’ve got to have permission to contribute.

“Two people don’t represent the whole minority group. It’s really important to think broader than that.”