“We are trying to boldly pursue equity, and this is a way that marketing can put that strategy into action,” said Emmakate Young, managing director of marketing at Delta Air Lines. “We’ve been really intentional about our visuals and who we see in our advertisements, and this really helps us fit the other side of the equation—to make sure it’s reaching all of the appropriate audiences.”
The Ad Council used IBM’s toolkit to target advertising in the “It’s Up to You” campaign to overcome COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, said Elise James-DeCruise, the group’s chief equity officer.
IBM and the Ad Council found that leaning on programmatic buying without any intervention from the bias mitigation tools was driving more impressions toward higher-income audiences that responded positively to the campaign but were already convinced they should be vaccinated anyway, Lord said. Using the tools helped the Ad Council redirect spending, particularly to people of color and others who were more resistant to the message, but were also the people the Ad Council was trying to persuade.
In a similar way, Mindshare has found clients’ “propensity models,” based on their first-party data showing where brand sales are coming from, can also tend to channel more spending toward the already converted in a way that narrows rather than broadens a brand’s user base.
“You end up perpetuating a situation,” Gerhart said. “So in this case, the CPG product tended to skew more female than it did male and it was a household product. And what we found was sort of reinforcing gender stereotypes and the role of gender within a family setting. When you play that out, and you start doubling down on that, you can very quickly end up in a space where you're alienating huge portions of potential opportunity.”
“I think the advertising market has a really important role in society, and I think it can play a good role,” said WPP CEO Mark Read. Using IBM’s tools can also play a role in business success, he said. “If our clients are missing out on things we don’t want to miss out on, we have to really understand and build that into the way we think about marketing and correct for it.”
Later, in questioning by Lord, Read showed a remarkably dim view of the ultimate impact of programmatic media buying on the industry for the CEO of a holding company whose Xaxis business was one of the pioneers in the field.
“Sometimes I wonder how good the programmatic was,” Read said. “We spend tens of millions of dollars, hundreds of millions, optimizing on a pinhead, down the funnel, and all this other stuff doesn’t get nearly enough attention. It’s like being really good at assessing the value of Argentinian bonds when actually you should be buying something different.”