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Nielsen's annual Consumer 360 Media Summit in Washington, D.C. Photo: Sara Fischer/Axios

Speaking at Nielsen's Consumer 360 Summit in Washington, executives from brands, publishers and non-profits agree that using traditional demographics, such as race and religion, to target advertisements to people is often less effective than targeting people by their diverse interests, such as movies and hobbies.

Why it matters: Data-based marketing has made this type of targeting possible. In the past, placing TV or newspaper ads allowed marketers to target by age, gender and location. Today, there are many more targeting opportunities, and more diverse targeting can be more effective.

Expand chart
Data: Nielsen; Chart: Axios Visuals

By the numbers: A whopping 71% of real total expenditures growth from 2005-2015 came from ethnically-diverse consumers, according to Nielsen's Consumer Expenditure Study.

  • Today, 21 of 25 of the most populated U.S. counties are a multicultural majority. And 44% of multicultural millennials choosing to live in the Top 10 Nielsen Demographic Marketing Areas (DMAs), including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston.
  • Multicultural millennials who are active on their mobile devices spend over $65 billion per year — with an increasing majority of those dollars being spent online. They also influence more than $1 trillion in total CPG and entertainment spending.

"The definition of cultural ID is changing," says Maya Peterson, Director, Creative Strategy, Viacom's marketing services team, Velocity. "It's not just a thing you're born with, like race or religion, but it's really about passion, interests and hobbies."

  • Peterson says a survey Viacom conducted found that found consumers are least passionate about the qualities they born with, but rather they pick "passions" and interests to identify themselves with. "As marketers, we need to be more fluid in ways define this generation."

Dual identities is also prevalent within this generation, says Lia Silkworth, SVP of Insights and Consumer Development at Telemundo. "We have to acknowledge and understand that people have plural identities in this country." She cites a consumer who identifies equally as being English and Pakistani.

Understanding sentiment around culture is important too, says Grant Schneider, Chief Strategy Officer of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. GLAAD, he said, commissioned a survey to learn how comfortable people are with the gay community — to target them based on their comfort levels, not their own identity.

Our cultural assumptions inform our algorithms, says Edwin Wong, SVP of Research and Insights at Buzzfeed. Wong says that marketers often assume that programmatic targeting is binary: "Are you a man or a woman?" But many people don't identify with gender or other qualities as being one or another, but rather being somewhere on a sliding scale or a spectrum.

  • "Our algorithms and statements use historical data to target, and if we don't understand the consumer, what does it mean about our algorithms? Our programmatic advertising? Who exactly are we targeting?" he said.

Go deeper

WHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization called on countries Sunday to not impose travel bans on southern African nations amid concerns over the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The U.S. and countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific announced travel restrictions in response to Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa. It's since spread to several European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. The WHO noted in a statement that only two southern African nations have detected the new variant.

Updated 4 hours ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

8 hours ago - Health

WHO: Not yet known whether Omicron leads to more severe disease

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Sunday said that it is not yet clear whether the newly discovered Omicron variant is more transmissible than other strains of the COVID-19 virus.

Why it matters: The agency's statement comes as the variant, discovered in South Africa, has already been detected in European and Asian countries.