We Tested Culture-Specific Ads, Here are the Results

Feb 17, 2023

One-and-done marketing may work for the general market, but it’s less effective with specific audiences. Let’s dig into the results of our recent study and get into strategies for connecting with AAPI, Black/African American, and Hispanic/Latino listeners.

Digital audio draws 209 million listeners each month.1 And with advances in ad tech, brands have ever-increasing control over who they reach with promotional messages. So, why do many advertisers still use the same message for all audiences? With 42% of the US population fitting into multicultural segments like AAPI, Black/African American, and Hispanic/Latino,2 brands need to diversify their approach to advertising messages. 

It's Time to Ditch One-Size Messaging

Recently, we challenged the “one-and-done” approach to digital audio advertising. We partnered with MAGNA and Identity for a study3comparing the effectiveness of general-market ads (developed for all audiences) with blanket multicultural ads (all-encompassing ads meant to speak to all cultural groups) and culture-specific ads (customized with food references, dialects, and themes for specific cultural groups). The findings were clear: it’s time to ditch one-size messaging.

The study found that general-market ads don’t resonate as strongly with diverse audiences, with lifts in brand favorability, preference, and respect taking a nosedive compared to the general population.

The Branding Impact of General Market Ads

The good news is brands benefit when they create diverse messaging. All cultural ads (both multicultural and culture-specific) made a more positive impression on AAPI, Black/African American, and Hispanic/Latino audiences than general-market ads, with impressive lifts in perceived relevance, connection, and favorability.

The branding impact of ads among multicultural audiences

When it Comes to Diverse Audiences, Get Specific

Comparing reactions from AAPI, Black/African American, and Hispanic/Latino audiences to culture-specific ads with blanket multicultural ads, culture-specific ads were the clear winner. Brand relevance increased +8% with culture-specific ads (compared to +3% for general and blanket). Cultural consciousness also increased +8% (compared to +2% and 0% for general and blanket, respectively). And with people who most identify with their race/ethnicity, culture-specific ads drove purchase intent. With these audiences, intent rose +6% (compared to +1% for blanket multicultural ads).

Create Ads with Specific Audiences in Mind

One thing is clear, AAPI, Black/African American, and Hispanic/Latino audiences want authentic representation from brands. When asked about the importance of brand involvement, 75% of those surveyed said it’s important that brands take a personalized approach to connecting with people from different cultures through their communication. However, authenticity is key, with 76% saying it’s important to ensure an authentic image is portrayed and 75% saying it’s important to avoid stereotypes about people from diverse backgrounds.

Here are three things to keep in mind as you diversify your advertising messages.

1. Look for Ways to Connect Culturally

When it comes to ads for AAPI, Black/African American, and Hispanic/Latino audiences, relatability is a key driver for likability. And culture-specific ads hit the right note. Here are a few of the open-ended responses from survey participants:

  • AAPI: “I liked how the little boy at the cookout said something about lumpia.”

  • Black/AA: “The ad was culturally relevant to me because it incorporated activities that my family participates in.”

  • Hispanic/Latino: “It was engaging and relevant to my culture because of the asada words the commentator used. Overall, it was great.”

As you can see, culture-specific ads are endearing. And investing in creative designed to connect culturally is critical for brands looking to drive growth across diverse audiences.

2. Make Cultural References Specific and Relevant

Brands benefit most when cultural references are directly relevant to the target audience. For example, in the study, when a culture-specific ad mentioned Southeast Asian foods, brand preference with AAPI audiences rose +8% with people who identify as Southeast Asian. And an ad in English with some Spanish insertions saw a +11% boost in perceived relevance with Hispanic/Latino audiences who speak English and/or other languages (compared to those who only speak English).

The more specific ads get, the more complex relatability becomes. Here are a few of the open-ended responses from survey participants:

  • AAPI: “Don’t just add some something about my culture to make me like it.”

  • Hispanic/Latino: “It tried too hard to be culturally relevant.”

To drive authenticity, you must avoid surface-level references like exaggerated accents.

3. Test Culture-Specific Ads

Here’s the thing: though reaching diverse audiences is more important than ever, hitting the right tone can be tricky. Bringing diversity into all stages of the campaign process is a great start. And when you have your culture-specific ads ready, test, test, test! Incorporate creative pre-testing with diverse cultural groups to ensure your specific cues are relevant.

Win Over Diverse Audiences with Digital Audio

Digital audio allows brands to reach AAPI, Black/African American, and Hispanic/Latino audiences with tailored messaging. And between our targeting solutions and creative powerhouse (Studio Resonate), SXM Media can help ensure your messages are relevant. Let’s talk.


1. Edison Research, The Infinite Dial 2022

2. U.S. Census 2020 Decennial Survey

3. Challenging the ‘One & Done’ Approach Connecting Culturally Through Digital Audio, December 2022 study from MAGNA, SXM Media, and Identity

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