Kargo’s Winning Proposition for Multicultural Publishing

A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM KARGO

Cynopsis Medias First Morning Read
Wednesday February 28, 2024

Amplifying Diverse Voices: How Kargo’s MCA Program Funds Diverse-Owned Media

By E.B. Moss

Kargo has come a long way since it first disrupted the mobile industry with ringtones and wallpaper 20 years ago. It evolved to offer comprehensive, cross-channel advertising solutions and then within the last decade has brought significantly more innovation for the company with the vision of putting “the art in ad tech.” With growth from acquisitions, including video ad platform Videobyte and e-commerce/social media tech platform StitcherAds (now Kargo Commerce), Kargo has been able to offer full-funnel solutions and also serve on desktop, streaming, and even connected devices like LG Glass.

Focused solidly on driving better engagement via enhanced digital creative, Kargo has perfected both multi-platform ad delivery and, reaching audiences where they are.

Yet, as the profile of consumers becomes ever more multicultural, it was evident from ad spend and marketing data that communities of color were underrepresented and underinvested. To put it simply – ad tech is not inclusive.

The media industry supply often runs low on inventory from diverse-owned media companies and, as a result, fails to offer multicultural content. This meant that content creators from communities of color struggled to share their stories and amplify their storytellers.

With this in mind, last year Kargo set out to do some heavy lifting and super-serve those communities through a new program: MCA – “Multicultural Content Amplifier.” While still fresh out of the gate, the results are already noteworthy, thanks to the eager participation of major brands like Danone and Discover.

A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM KARGO

A History of Evolution

MCA is an ideal fit with Kargo’s mission to continue to evolve, scale, and build better ad creatives – and increase inclusivity (for example, supporting BIPOC-owned small businesses with pro bono advertising). However, “the demand for diverse-owned media is much greater than the supply,” said Kargo Chief Client Officer Jeannine Shao Collins. Realizing the struggle that companies face to meet pledged budgets for minority-owned publishers, Kargo recognized that these publishers needed more than just capital. They need technology and training to participate in the advertising ecosystem. Kargo helps diverse publishers by providing Fabrik, a proprietary content management system designed explicitly to help smaller publishers scale their operations and participate fully in programmatic advertising.

Collaborating with partners such as Discover and Danone, Kargo reinvests a portion of its campaign revenue directly back into communities. “A lot of companies have great intentions to support diverse-owned media, but in the end, there is not enough media for them to run their advertising. So, we are supplying the tech. We’re providing training and we’re actually using a fund to hire more diverse employees, create content, and address this problem of supply and demand,” Shao Collins explains. The multi-tiered program is on track to help hire more than 125 writers by the end of this year.

A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM KARGO

Fueling the MCA Program

Shao Collins acknowledges there’s a symbiotic nature to this initiative: “being good for society and being good for business are not mutually exclusive. If we can be the engine behind the growth of these diverse suppliers and help them grow and learn to be bigger businesses, then we all win. Because, in the end, we’re a tech platform for publishers. And if they grow, we grow.”

When MCA was first established, Kargo partnered with BOMESI (Black Owned Media Equity & Sustainability Institute) with the aim of creating a program that would not just provide ad revenue to minority-owned media outlets but also help build the infrastructure and platform needed to support the collective of minority publishers in the long term.

Since then, the program has evolved in scope allowing brands to participate directly with Kargo and the MCA publishers. As part of its expansion strategy, the roster of participating diverse publishers has grown beyond BOMESI and Black publishers. It now also boasts the participation of Gold House’s collaborators such as EnVi Media, Cold Tea Collective, and Brown Girl Magazine, covering news in the AAPI community, as well as PinkNews and equalpride, both media outlets serving the LGBTQ+ audience.

Beyond increasing the available funds being invested in sites owned and operated by diverse creators, the MCA program goes much further with services that upskill and train.

Program elements include:
– Editorial – Training workshops on SEO optimization, social engagement, ad ops and more
– Website – Infrastructure set-up to facilitate functionality and upscaling volume
– Tech – Engineering support, including programmatic ad technology enabling the sale of inventory to brands at scale

The MCA program will continue to grow its publisher footprint within these communities and expand to include LatinX and women in sports supply in the near future.

A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM KARGO

Danone’s Journey with MCA

As the largest B-Corp in the United States, Danone’s mission is to “bring health through food to as many people as possible.” Mike Sallette, Vice President of Media, Sponsorships, Licensing at Danone North America, keeps that foundation in mind when making media decisions. Through the lens of his media expertise, he explained the company’s goals – and challenges – on its path to greater inclusivity: “Back in 2020 when many advertisers paused their advertising for a month, we really wanted to do more than just pause temporarily.” As Sallette frequently advises, “measure what you treasure.” So, they used this time-gap to scrutinize how much of their annual media investment was placed in diverse-owned publishers. (Sallette clarifies that this is distinct from what they consider “multicultural marketing” and referred specifically to what was being allocated to particular media organizations, publishers, or content creators.)

Danone conducted their own internal audit, and as Sallette explains, “we learned that we were investing less than 1%. So, it was an opportunity to set a goal to increase our budget.” But they observed early on that it was not going to be an easy journey given the aforementioned inventory issues. Danone joined the Group Media Inclusion initiative and pledged to put 2% of their budget towards Black-owned media organizations. “And then we set the goal to be 4% of the total budget for Black-owned media plus diverse-owned organizations as well.”

That was when they uncovered more typical industry challenges: “It was hard to identify particular publishers that might have self-classified themselves as diverse-owned,” said Sallette. Many of those publishers were not preferred vendors, lacked joint business plans, or operated at a mid-stage or smaller scale, adding to the inventory woes. “We had made a commitment to invest a certain amount of money only to find out, ‘Hey, they were unable to place all your dollars and therefore you didn’t reach as many people.’…It was a Catch-22: we can’t invest as much as we want if the partners or publishers aren’t able to develop more placements, produce more content, or employ more staff writers.”

A Parallel Win

This is the moment Sallette found the MCA program, and as he recalls “it was a really great way to resolve the Catch-22.” With MCA dollars and resources coming in to fortify infrastructure and produce the content necessary to attract bigger audiences, diverse publishers were able to increase their exposure which in turn opened up opportunities to attract advertisers. With infrastructure in place, scalability problems solved and broader audiences secured, Danone was able to promote their brand message and meet their goal for DEI investment. According to Sallette, “In our mind, MCA is a win, win, win!”

Danone devised a unique approach that developed sponsorships, explored new placements, and adjusted timeframes. As he explained, “we scaled it out, meeting other brand teams to show them that this performance was on par with a lot of the others.”

The additional win, of course, is that these media placements allow Sallette to help connect Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives with Danone’s broader mission of bringing health through food to as many people as possible. With over 40% of the U.S. population identifying as multicultural, DEI initiatives are essential in promoting an equitable food system and providing access to diverse communities.

Danone has since raised its investment goal to 5%, “which we’ve continued to exceed,” says Sallette, “but we got there because we’re also measuring media performance and the marketing impact of these particular publishers in our campaign.” To that point, he explains that “these are partners who aren’t just receiving money because they’re diverse-owned instead, they are receiving support because they’re delivering awesome content and achieving great advertising results, too….It was critical for us to have real business results, not just media KPIs. Marketing impact and showing net sales was crucial for us to get people to buy in and invest more. As a result, we dramatically increased our investments.”

Shao Collins applauds the participation of brands like Danone, Discover, and others. Similarly, Sallette appreciates that Kargo has helped enable publishers, especially within the BOMESI institute, to hire more writers and go even further to supply new ad-serving and new content management capabilities that complete the cycle and ultimately drive more revenue. It becomes a self-perpetuating flywheel. In addition, Sallette concludes, “What’s really important is that we’re delivering messaging about products that we feel offer healthier choices for many consumers and help us combat food inequalities that exist in many communities. That’s what’s been super exciting for us: MCA brings it all together.”

The success of partners in the MCA program, even in just its first year, serves as a testament to the positive outcomes achievable through collaboration and a genuine desire to make a difference. Kargo’s commitment to evolving, scaling, and fostering inclusivity positions them as a leader in reshaping the landscape of digital advertising. Now because of MCA, Sallette, Danone and Kargo are able to “treasure what they measure” as well.

Cynopsis Team

Robbie Caploe
VP/Group Publisher
[email protected]

Lynn Leahey
Editorial Director
[email protected]

Kerry Smith
Division President
Access Intelligence

Albert Nassour
Executive Director of Sales
917-545-3129
[email protected]

Stephanie Cronk
Senior Marketing Director
[email protected]

 

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Rob Hudgins

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