Op-ed: The revolution will be multicultural — and mobile

Yuriy Boykiv is the co-founder and CEO of Gravity, an agency that helps brands connect with cultural and international consumers.

Within the multicultural landscape, content remains king. According to Nielsen, traditional TV still reigns as the most-used platform by all major audiences. But that reign may be coming to an end, and advertisers need to prepare for it.

Personal computers and mobile devices are creating more opportunities for people to access content typically reserved by TV sets, especially among ethnic audiences. Hispanic, Asian and African-American audiences all show higher mobile and PC viewership than the general market.

This media convergence is driven by access to content. These audiences can’t easily access their desired content (e.g., drama, news, movies) through traditional TV. While multicultural groups must pay a premium for certain ethnic programming on satellite and cable, mobile offers a wider selection at a fraction of the cost.

The Mobile Mountain
In this on-demand world of free access to content, multicultural audiences have been turning to the Web for some time now to access content not available on network television. This is especially true among foreign-born immigrants who are visiting sites like Youku Tudou or — unfortunately — streaming content illegally. In 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau showed that an estimated 41.3 million U.S. residents are foreign-born. Naturally, these newcomers gravitate to ethnic programming anywhere they can get it.

Today, mobile devices enable these multicultural audiences to sate their appetites for ethnic programming fare online anytime, anywhere.

Finding the Audience
Broadcasters, networks and the overall industry are struggling to keep up with the times. Even as network television makes strides to be more inclusive, it remains insufficient for many within the various cultural groups; cable and satellite companies have been trying to pick up the slack.

DIRECTV, DISH, Comcast and others each offer international packages to ethnic audiences. Many of these packages are individual ethnic networks, such as Zee TV for Asian-Indian audiences, Phoenix Satellite Television for Chinese, RTN-WMNB for Russian, or Rai for Italian. Meanwhile, Internet Protocol TV providers like Roku, YuppTV, and iTalkBB also provide international programming options.

To no one’s surprise, these international packages come at a cost. Those that are optimized for mobile access (Sling TV International and DramaFever, for example) are getting the best traction. HBO GO’s approach — offering the popular channel’s programming over the Internet — should resonate loudly with black and acculturated Hispanic audiences. These examples represent a much larger pool of additional options.

What This Means for Advertisers
Advertising to roughly 41 million foreign-born viewers requires intensive research, intelligence and media planning. Most multicultural audiences are dual users, utilizing both traditional TV and mobile devices to view content. Media planning must be holistic, with traditional and digital media planners uniting under one goal.

More than 40 percent of Asian Americans, along with several other ethnic groups, are visiting social networking sites while simultaneously watching TV. Advertising through WeChat for Chinese audiences, alongside Facebook and YouTube, has the potential for massive saturation of the market. Likewise, targeting recent immigrants with in-language advertising through these top social media channels can be highly effective.

Marketers eager to grow or strengthen their multicultural customer bases must see the cultural shift to digital platforms. The time has come to target audiences on nontraditional platforms. By utilizing a cohesive strategy that hits these viewers from all of their preferred viewing methods, advertisers can ensure they will navigate this shift in the best way possible.

Co-authored by Rob Douglas, EVP of client services at Gravity. Image courtesy Shutterstock.com.


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