GroupM takes a responsibility-focused approach to media buying
As GroupM heads into the annual upfronts, making ad commitments worth millions of dollars on behalf of clients, the media-buying powerhouse is changing its approach to investment that focuses on social responsibility.
To this end, it has struck a two-year deal with OZY, a multi-platform media and entertainment company that boasts a connection with a diverse audience of 75 million people, most of whom are millennial or Gen Z.
GroupM has historically been revered for its ability to use its scale to drive better deals—including pricing—for its clients with media partners.
“Inside of GroupM there has been a conscious awareness that, as the media industry is evolving, you can’t do investment like we had in the past—leveraging our scale and buying power,” says Kirk McDonald, CEO, GroupM North America. “There needs to be more substance.”
The OZY partnership falls into GroupM’s “responsible investment” buying framework, which focuses on brand safety, data ethics, diversity, equity and inclusion, responsible journalism and sustainability. The goal, according to McDonald, is to make advertising work better for people and maximize media dollars through socially conscious buying to fund positive change.
This investment approach evolves valuation and measurement methods to account for social and environmental impact like a media placement’s carbon emissions, the diversity of audience makeup and a concerted emphasis on local journalism and credible news sources.
This comes as the ad world looks to course-correct its role in supporting systemic racism, both internal and in the ways it has done business. While GroupM's efforts aim to support DE&I efforts, they also extend to other forms of social good.
“Socially-conscious media buying is really the only way to support so many of the initiatives our clients are talking about,” McDonald says. “We want to make sure the dollars they are using aren’t just driving businesses, but also doing good.”
The deal with OZY will include the creation of original video, audio and written series for GroupM clients, and consultation services on trends and what’s new and next. While OZY is perhaps best known for its morning newsletter, it also has podcasts, produces TV shows and an events arm with festivals like OZY Fest.
McDonald points to OZY as the type of media company GroupM will be looking to partner with more deeply moving forward—those that support and expose fresh perspectives and audiences, he says.
Responsible investment doesn’t mean GroupM will compromise its standards on where it places media, McDonald adds, noting that OZY is “hot.” Instead, they will implement new standards on top of the ones already in place that will force the team to work harder to find outlets that not only drive scale but make a difference.
GroupM is the latest agency to strike a long-term deal with OZY. Last month, Dentsu Media announced it had entered into a three-year partnership with the brand as part of its “meaningful media” investment strategy. The length of both the GroupM and Dentsu deals with OZY are notable, and speak to the media company’s efforts to create long-term relationships rather than one-off sponsorships.
“We want to strike partnerships that allow brands to work with us in creative ways, and doesn’t feel like we are doing a one-off,” says Carlos Watson, CEO and co-founder of OZY. “We want to build something that will have real value for clients and partners, both addressing their immediate needs and in the medium term.”
The entire industry plans to take a closer look at their media dollars heading into this year’s spring ad haggle to see how companies can shift more dollars into minority-owned and diversity-targeted media.
Media mogul Byron Allen is leading a call for brands to shift 2% of their media spend into Black-owned media. And other media agencies like IPG Mediabrands are looking to educate clients on these types of media companies through so-called “Equity Upfronts” and other similar types of programs that feature minority-owned and targeted media companies.