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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

Updated 4 hours ago - Science

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the world's largest tree by volume. Park officials wrapped the redwoods in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. Protection efforts appeared to be working overnight.

5 hours ago - World

Hong Kong holds first "patriots only" elections

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam during a news conference last Monday. Photo: Lui Siu Wai/Xinhua via Getty Images

Hong Kong's elections to choose the city's Election Committee members opened to a select group of voters on Sunday, under a new "patriots only" system imposed by China's government.

Why it matters: All candidates running to be members of the electoral college have been "vetted" by Beijing, per Reuters. They will go on to choose the Asian financial hub's next leader, approved by China's government, and some of its legislature.

7 hours ago - World

Israeli forces capture final 2 escaped Palestinian prisoners

An Israeli security forces member on Saturday stands guard at the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, from where the six inmates escaped. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli forces captured the two remaining Palestinian prisoners who tunneled their way out of an Israeli maximum-security prison with four others in a "Shawshank Redemption"-style escape, authorities announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The escape sparked a massive manhunt and turned the prisoners into heroes in the West Bank and Gaza, with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza threatening an escalation if they were harmed, per Axios' Barak Ravid.