Since its founding in 2016 as an arm of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) has worked to elevate multicultural marketing as the industry at large seeks to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse consumer base. As marketers increasingly make public commitments to diversity, AIMM's focus is on helping ensure the industry follows through on its promises.
AIMM introduced the Cultural Insights Impact Measure (CIIM) in 2019 to show how cultural insights make ads more effective among diverse audiences. And as calls for racial equality ramped up last summer, ANA and AIMM made a seven-part commitment to equality, inclusion and system change that was signed by executives from more than 200 companies.
Most recently, CIIM helped the organization analyze Super Bowl ads, finding that most fell short of being truly diverse and inclusive. To address those shortcoming and to make the elements of the pledge a reality, AIMM is building two additional tools that will help hold marketers accountable on diversity and inclusion (D&I).
"To quote Mark Pritchard, brands need to be and should be a force for good and a force for growth. We want to make it abundantly clear that while both are critical, every company is seeking brand growth, and multicultural and inclusive segments can help you get it," AIMM co-founder Gilbert Dávila said.
Super Bowl ads fumbled D&I
During this year's Super Bowl — during what is usually the ad world's biggest night — many ads reinforced the fact that many brands still struggle with messaging that meets the moment. That disconnect with consumers also cropped up when analyzing the ads from a D&I perspective, as AIMM did using CIIM. The analysis found that no real progress was made in racial inclusion in Super Bowl ads; inclusion of LGBTQ people and people with disabilities was basically nonexistent. Perhaps more tellingly, not only did ads miss the mark on diversity, but they also lacked authenticity and moved toward bias.
The failure of Super Bowl ads on these measures — even as racial justice has been top-of-mind for many consumers since last summer — shows that there is room for improvement. This is true even with companies that are doing well with certain segments, as AIMM often sees a company react to one segment and forget about other segments of multicultural marketing.
"There is now a vetted, credible, tested measuring tool that measures the impact of culture in advertising."
"Companies need to embrace the 'and' instead of the 'or,'" said AIMM co-founder Lisette Arsuaga. "The efforts from companies should not take away money in the efforts from one [group] in order to please an other. It should be a more holistic and consistent experience."
By using CIIM, marketers can improve qualitative analysis of their ads with a holistic approach to diversity and inclusion, a development Dávila calls a "game changer" for the industry.
"Whatever doesn't get measured, there's no progress behind it. There is now a vetted, credible, tested measuring tool that measures the impact of culture in advertising," he said.
Delivering on the pledge
The pledge that ANA and AIMM members made last summer is a lofty one. Among its seven pillars are calls to achieve representation throughout the industry; have conversations about systemic inequities in the industry; accelerate the #SeeALL campaign to eliminate bias; match spending in multicultural marketing with representation in population; demand accurate, inclusive data; achieve an equitable supply chain; and use cross-industry partnerships to engage with and understand diverse communities.
The next tools that AIMM plans to release this year are a maturity model and a diversity index. The industry-wide maturity model is expected to "help companies understand how to move forward" with their D&I efforts.
"We feel that it's our responsibility to give them the tools that they need to be able to stand behind their signatures [on the pledge] so that they can actually create great change in their companies to move forward," Arsuaga said.
"We want to highlight those best-in-class [companies] and create a 'FOMO' for those that just didn't quite make it, encouraging those to make the the top quartile of the list."
The diversity index, which AIMM hopes to launch this summer, will look at a variety of factors — marketing spend, CIIM scores, diversity figures about a company's marketing structure and boards of director — to provide a holistic view of a company's investment in multicultural marketing.
"We want to highlight those best-in-class [companies] and create a 'FOMO' for those that just didn't quite make it, encouraging those to make the the top quartile of the list," Arsuaga said.
Real energy to solve real problems
Only 5% of marketing spend is targeting multicultural segments, per a PQ Media study cited by AIMM — a "mere fraction" of the country's Black, Hispanic, Asian, Indigenous, LGBTQ+ and People with Disabilities populations. Moving to a percentage of spend on multicultural marketing that matches representation in population is a daunting task, but has begun.
"Companies are placing more KPIs behind their efforts… You're beginning to see some companies saying how do we move to 7%? How quickly can we get there? How do we move to 8% and 9%, when in our industry one point is billions of dollars?" Dávila said.
Dávila hopes that the maturity model and the diversity index will let companies see where they stand compared to their peers, and continue the progression.
"I've been in this business for 30 years, and there have been a lot of fluffy words thrown around anytime there is a crisis, I think with the hope that it will quickly fade away," Dávila said. "But this time around is different. We're seeing now a continued effort from CEOs from CMOs."