MASTERCLASSING

Mindshare USA launches LGBTQ private marketplace with SKYY Vodka as its launch partner

David Murphy

SKYY Vodka has been revealed as the launch brand for an LGBTQ private marketplace (PMP) developed by Mindshare USA.

Mindshare launched the PMP to address the issue of media dollars being inadvertently diverted away from LGBTQ publishers and journalists through keyword exclusion lists. The LGBTQ PMP leverages an inclusion list of publishers that Mindshare USA works with and have guaranteed brand safety standards for advertisers.

Advertisers have hundreds to over a thousand words on these exclusion lists to ensure brands appear alongside content that reflects complementary topics or brand values, or avoid those in conflict.

Keyword exclusion lists tell automated digital advertising models not to put a brand’s advertising alongside content that could be potentially non-brand safe, based on specific words or phrases. But words like “sexuality,” “queer,” and “gay” can be used in ways that are sexual and discriminatory, or in ways that are empowering and affirming. And the content in pieces that discuss things like "bullying" or "violence" can differ in their message from article to article. An aggressive keyword exclusion list lacks the flexibility to identify the difference and to understand important context around keywords.

Ultimately, the process can result in a lack of financial support for different types of content (no matter its tone or the writer’s intent), with a particular impact on the LGBTQ community, forcing numerous publishers and voices to shut down or severely downsize. According to a study by the University of Baltimore and Cheq, ‘The Economic Costs of Keyword Blacklists for Online Publishers’ as much as 73 per cent of neutral or positive LGBTQ online news has been incorrectly flagged by this type of technology.

SKYY Vodka is a longstanding supporter of LGBTQ rights and representation in media, sponsoring numerous initiatives and voices in the community year-round, from its ‘Toast to Marriage’ campaign, to being the first spirit brand to release an ad featuring a lesbian couple.

“As a brand, we believe that Pride should not be the only time of year to show support for the LGBTQ community,” said Bernadette Knight, SKYY Vodka’s senior marketing director. "SKYY Vodka is dedicated to supporting LGBTQ voices 365 days a year, and this PMP provides yet another avenue for us to do that.”

The PMP is an integral new addition to the media plan for SKYY Vodka’s larger ‘Proudly American’ campaign, featuring people who shine brightly in the face of adversity, celebrate diversity, and are proud to inspire today’s articulation of being American. One of the campaign’s spokespeople is Dusty Ray Bottoms (one of the breakout stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race) who appears in the ads online published via the PMP.

Mindshare USA began work on the LGBTQ PMP in 2019. While brand safety tools, technologies, and guidelines have played a critical role in protecting marketers and their media investments over the years, contextual challenges in exclusion list technology (such as sentiment) require more work to protect and encourage more underrepresented voices in media. The LGBTQ PMP is the first in a series of “inclusion PMPs” that Mindshare USA is rolling out in 2020 and 2021, dedicated to driving more media dollars to minority and marginalized groups.

“Publishers in the LGBTQ community have seen so many cuts, layoffs, and closures over the past couple years, as have those for other marginalized communities,” said Dan Ottinger, manager, digital investment at Mindshare USA, who co-led the launch of the PMP. “This isn’t just a business issue, but a moral one. It’s essential to keep our community’s journalist voices alive, and the staunch support from marketers and partners around this has been really encouraging.”

Diane Anderson-Minshall, CEO of Pride Media, home to publications such as The Advocate and Out, and one of the partners in the PMP, said it’s critical to challenge the brand safety standards of the last few years because they’ve become a roadblock to bringing more independent voices to media. “A lot of the time that’s LGBTQ voices, but also specifically people of colour, immigrants, and other under-represented groups. This kind of initiative will help keep those voices out there and accessible to everyone who needs it,” said Anderson.

Research carried out by Mindshare USA shows that advertising in LGBTQ media is effective. Working with members of the LGBTQ community, the agency found that using an ad in LGBTQ media resulted in 2.8x higher memory encoding when compared to using the same ad in non-LGBTQ media. And that LGBTQ ads placed in LGBTQ media were 30 per cent more positively encoded than LGBTQ ads embedded in non-LGBTQ media.