Consumer brands have been slow to figure out that performance — at least when it comes to advertising on platforms — is directly linked to the types of talent they showcase in their marketing.
To understand why, as well as to establish a direct link between diversity and the bottom line, I sat down with TubeScience CEO Moshe Mosbacher. Mosbacher co-founded the Los Angeles-based pay-for-performance video lab in 2015. Here’s his take:
Haley Hoffman Smith: Let’s start with the million-dollar question: Why are representative ads so crucial for customer engagement?
Moshe Mosbacher: Thanks to some great choices Facebook and YouTube made early on to prioritize their user experience, most social media ads are skippable. That means consumers finally have a choice about whether to engage — to stop and start watching or to click and buy.
We’ve found that consumers are vastly more likely to engage and buy when an ad is relevant to their personal life circumstances. Successful ads place products in the context of the consumer’s real needs and wants.
If a company wants to engage a broad customer base, it has to cast people who are representative of different groups of customers. It has to understand each group’s needs and wants, and it needs to use language that’s relatable to each group. Put another way, inclusiveness is key to driving video ad performance at scale.
Now, I often hear skepticism about whether diversity and inclusion are good for the bottom line. Our data set — and we make roughly one in every 20 Facebook video ads in North America — answers that concern pretty unequivocally. It’s impossible to scale and grow a brand in a cost-effective manner without engaging consumers in ways that speak to them and their communities.
HHS: If that’s true, why haven’t we seen ads reflective of their audiences before now?
MM: Honestly, I think it’s because advertisers didn’t have to worry about it until recently. Before skippable ads, advertisers had captive audiences. The biggest brands would hire the “best” agencies to produce what they felt was the “best” way to present a product. They pushed a series of ideals — ones that were unrealistic and artificial.
Today, how consumers spend their time is changing. Yes, TV is still around. But traditional television audiences are shrinking, even among more mature demographics. People are choosing to spend more time on media platforms where they have a real choice of whether to engage or not.
The result has been a huge disruption to traditional advertisers and old-school agencies. In the new world, which TubeScience is trying to usher in as quickly as possible, the companies that make the best products will market those products inclusively to everyone who can use them. Ads in the future will, by necessity, be diverse across age, gender, body type, style, language, and more — because brands that don’t market that way simply won’t survive. It’s a future I’m really excited about!
HHS: I’ve been hearing about the importance of relatability, not just in influencer marketing, but also in advertising more broadly. How do you think it’s changing how brands position themselves?
MM: Our business is rooted in a medium that doesn’t reward celebrity; it rewards relevance. Brands are reacting to that by increasing the diversity of the people featured in their content. They’re showing people who aren’t just relatable in terms of skin tone and body shape, but also in language and personal style. Because — and, again, our data reflects this — consumers who make purchases online don’t care about celebrities in their ads. They care about whether those ads appeal to their needs.
HHS: As I’m sure you’re aware, studies show diverse workforces make companies more successful. Are advertisers that prioritize diversity experiencing similar success in terms of customer engagement?
MM: If you want to get a particular group of people to buy your product, you have to speak their language. You need to understand their needs. There are no shortcuts. You need to build teams that can understand and talk to your customers. The data we gather keeps proving this point: Diversity in ads — how relevant and relatable those ads are to the viewer’s personal experience — drives better performance at a larger scale.
HHS: How do you anticipate the advertising world will approach diversity in the future?
MM: I believe — and I’ve said this publicly more than once — there are two possible futures. Assuming broad trends toward prioritizing user experience over the desires of large advertisers continue, most — if not all — ads will become skippable. If that happens, advertising will become truly consent-based. In that future, people will choose what they see, where they see it, and how they engage with it. And advertisers will have to adapt. They’ll need to put energy into making great, relatable content for the many diverse communities out there.
The other future, which I would hate to see and my team is working hard to avoid, is one where advertising regresses and becomes worse for viewers. In this future, online platforms try to capture more media dollars from big, established brands and agencies by rolling out the unskippable ad units they’re asking for. In that world, success may again become based on who can spend the most money on unrealistic, aspirational ads. Those ads would be a lot like the ones we’re used to seeing on TV — the ones that have given advertising a bad name.
To me, that would be a real tragedy. Online advertising has a unique opportunity to be truly better and more diverse — but only if big tech platforms like Google, Facebook, and Snapchat keep customers’ needs ahead of short-term profits.