GroupM pledges to increase spending with BIPOC media

GroupM Canada has a new commitment to support Black and other diverse media by asking clients to pledge 2% of their budgets to those businesses.

Executives and client leads from the WPP-owned media agency network will be “inviting” brands to direct more of their programmatic spend toward its existing multicultural marketplaces, while also looking for more opportunities to spend directly on Black-owned media and content creators.

“We’re in those discussions now,” said Lindsey Talbot, GroupM Canada’s chief investment officer.

GroupM expects there will be considerable uptake from brands, because so many have similar DE&I types goals of their own. “That’s why we’re feeling pretty confident this is going to be a very well supported initiative,” said Talbot. “We’re really hoping that majority of our clients will be on board.”

Supporting BIPOC media in this way creates a virtuous cycle of sorts, with brands spending more around audiences consuming Black and diverse content, thereby enabling BIPOC creators to produce more and better content to attract bigger audiences.

“It just opens up the opportunity for more and more content to be created,” said Talbot. “We want to grow this, we want to grow or investment in this area, but we need to create that demand on the inventory.”

There are two components to the effort, said Talbot.

One is directing more spend toward the private marketplaces (PMPs) already created by GroupM to reach underrepresented consumer groups. “We have set up specific PMPs and inclusion lists that target Black communities, Indigenous Canadians, French Canadians, LGBTQ+, and we even have formalized Chinese and East Asian multicultural inclusion lists,” she said.

The second component is working directly with publishers and creators of BIPOC content. “We’re specifically moving spend into that content so that we’re ensuring that the money’s going back into the BIPOC content creators pockets,” said Talbot. “So two different strategies, but all rolling up into our pledge.”

The move by GroupM Canada follows a similar commitment called the Media Inclusion Initiative that was introduced in the U.S. in May. That move came as prominent Black media mogul Byron Allen was making headlines for demanding marketers spend more with Black-owned media companies, even filing a lawsuit against McDonald’s accusing it of discriminating against Black-owned media.

“This is about economic inclusion of African American-owned businesses in the U.S. economy,” said Allen, founder, chairman and CEO of Allen Media Group, in a release at the time. “The biggest trade deficit in America is the trade deficit between White corporate America and Black America, and McDonald’s is guilty of perpetuating this disparity. The economic exclusion must stop immediately.”

McDonald’s said it would increase its spending with Black-owned media to 5% from 2% by 2024. Late last year, the case was dismissed for a lack of evidence, but in January, a federal judge cleared the way for the lawsuit to move forward.

In response to Allen’s call for change last spring, IPG’s Mediabrands in the U.S. also committed to investing at least 5% in Black-owned media “in aggregate” by 2023.

The announcement by GroupM Canada came at the end of Black History Month, but CEO Kevin Johnson said in a release that the pledge is about “diversification of the ecosystem,” year round.

“We must dedicate investment to diverse and Black media to create a Canadian media ecosystem that more accurately reflects the community in which we live and operate,” he said. “And that needs to happen for more than one month a year.”

David Brown