How Marketers Can Reach Mobile-Obsessed Multicultural Millennials

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By Michael Sebastian (Ad Age)

If marketers want to reach young Hispanics and African-Americans with their messages online, they had better think mobile first — because this audience certainly is. Yet, when consumers go mobile, their ethnicities become largely invisible to advertisers.

Among Hispanic millennials, 42% access the internet only through their mobile devices, according to research from analytics firm ComScore. That’s the case for 25% of African-Americans in this age group. For the total population, it’s just 10%.

“We try to heavy up in mobile because we know the consumption is there,” said Vilma Vale-Brennan, managing partner-multicultural lead at media agency MEC North America.

Once consumers move to a mobile device, however, they’re harder to reach with targeted ads. Tracking systems — referred to loosely as “cookies” — don’t work as well, or at all, on mobile devices. “Sometimes we don’t have the tracking device we’d like to,” Ms. Vale-Brennan said.

That’s making social-media sites like Facebook and Twitter, along with music sites and certain digital-only publishers more critical buys for marketers looking to reach multicultural audiences.

Facebook counts 26 million active users within its U.S. Hispanic Affinity Group, a 12% year-over-year increase, according to the site’s own data. The vast majority of people within the U.S. Hispanic Affinity Group — 95% — visit the site on their mobile devices.

“Facebook has performed the best in getting multicultural audiences to engage,” said George Hammer, senior VP-Digitas Studios at DigitasLBi. “I had a huge success in targeting profiles instead of cookies.”

Instead of leaning on cookies, Facebook gleans information from users’ behaviors to determine whether they’re part of the U.S. Hispanic Affinity Group. For example, Facebook includes people who have their language set to Spanish, post in Spanish or like pages that feature content of interest to Hispanics.

Facebook began collecting signals for its Hispanic Affinity Group a year and a half ago, about the same time Twitter hired its first head of multicultural strategy, Nuria Santamaria. Facebook recently introduced similar targeting for African-Americans and Asian-Americans.

Beyond social media, marketers are turning to streaming audio sites, like Pandora and iHeartRadio, with ads geared toward multicultural audiences.

In mobile, contextual relevance also takes on renewed importance. In the past, brands that wanted to reach African-Americans, for instance, bought commercial time on BET and print ads in Ebony and Essence magazines. The rise of audience targeting shifted budgets from these media outlets to more general-interest titles.

But the frailty of ad-targeting on mobile means that brands seeking to reach audiences on their phones need to reconsider editorial content. Moguldom, a digital-only publisher with nine sites geared toward African-American and Hispanic audiences, including Bossip and Lossip, is attracting big brand advertisers like Lincoln, Wells Fargo and Procter & Gamble.

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