COVID-19 has been an interesting period of opportunity, according to Chris Kenna, founder and CEO of Brand Advance, a diversity-driven global media ecosystem.

It doesn’t sound good when put like that, he acknowledged in a panel session during London’s (online) Brand Safety Summit, but the evidence of changed thinking in government and among brands is there in the spending figures he sees.

They never used to spend much, if anything, he said, on the demographics served by the publishers that are on his network. These stretch across BAME communities, Hispanic, LatinX, African-American, LGBT and disability.

But something has changed and that is that low-paid workers are now key workers, said Kenna. It’s a major shift in the narrative around these groups which still tend to be over-represented in that socio-economic group.

“What that’s also meant is a massive increase in spend, massive,” he reported. “We will release the numbers at some point but now, from government through to brands and our clients, [they] have shifted major spend from reaching mainstream to now making sure that every digital campaign that they do is speaking to these demographics.”

And these are the same demographics that until very recently were being blocked by common brand safety procedures like simplistic keyword and exclusion lists.

As a man who falls into more than one of the categories that advertisers like to block in this way, he’s frustrated that, outside of his own publisher network, he sees only retirement ads – “nothing else can get through in the Google ecosystem” – even though he’s in his mid-thirties.

But now he sees mindsets changing and is optimistic that will continue post-pandemic. “Brands are spending a lot more reaching communities and consumers that they didn’t reach before.”

He added that creative “needs to show a little bit of consideration for whatever demographic it’s going to, and then be in a contextual environment”.

There’s an education job to be done around the context element, he suggested. “You can leave the world ‘black’ in there, just don’t go next to gang-related content but do go next to an article talking about black nurse NHL heroes.”

Sourced from Brand Safety Summit, WARC