Marketers seeking to reach multicultural audiences may be leveraging unreliable data, as there are often significant gaps in terms of the quality and accuracy of the information provided about these consumers.

Jim Spaeth, a partner at brand and metrics consultancy Sequent Partners, discussed this subject at the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF)’s 2019 AUDIENCExSCIENCE conference.

And he suggested that the datasets that power marketing campaigns typically struggle to adequately represent black, Hispanic, Asian American, LGBTQ and other valuable audiences for brands.

“It happens every day,” he said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Sequent Partners find faults in coverage, accuracy of multicultural-marketing data.)

Industry interviews revealed a hunger for this insight. “80% of the people said, ‘This is really important’, but less than half found that the current quality, accuracy, and affordability were up to what they had hoped for,” Spaeth explained.

“That’s a giant gap,” he continued, “so the next thing we did was talk to the different data providers. We did an RFI [request for information]. We did interviews. We had meetings.”

A piece of good news was that “principles are evolving”. The bad news, however, was that there are “very high kinds of inaccuracy and zero substantiation”.

There are discernible shortcomings in coverage and accuracy, he asserted. And one reason is neglect by brand custodians: “Clients just don’t ask questions. This is an area of very little transparency, but also of very little challenge,” Spaeth said.

“There are a lot of claims of accuracy in the coverage that are made, but they really should be documented. There should be some vetting of that accuracy ... We need to have a dialogue about the transparency – about the trade-offs and the cost.”

To remedy data lapses in digital, he added: “There’s a lot of work in terms of looking at language, and it’s not always so clear-cut.” In fact, he stated: “The more we dig into this, the more complex it becomes.”

For example, he said: “We find that there are an awful lot of English speakers on Telemundo looking at soccer because it’s more exciting to watch soccer on a Spanish-language television network, even if you don't quite understand the language.”

And while top-of-the-head research may well suggest “if you’re watching a Spanish-language television, you must be a Spanish speaker”, the research findings show “that’s not always true”.

Sourced from WARC