Heather Stewart on GM's Commitment to Diverse Media

By ANA InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Heather Stewart on GM's Commitment to Diverse Media

Heather Stewart (pictured above) is General Director, Global Media and Marketing Services at General Motors. She sat down for an interview with ANA's Group Executive Vice President Bill Duggan in advance of her upcoming appearance at next week's ANA Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference.

Bill Duggan: Earlier in the year, General Motors announced plans to dedicate 2% of your advertising budget to Black-owned media in 2021, 4% by 2022 and 8% by 2025. Are you on track for those commitments?

Heather Stewart: Yes! We are very much on track to delivering and perhaps even exceeding the commitments for 2021. We are deep in the planning for 2022 and are thrilled with the new diverse-owned media companies we have been introduced to.

Duggan: What were key learnings from GM's dedicated Upfront with diverse media owners in May?

Stewart: We were impressed by the level of participation by the diverse-owned media community, the thoughtfulness of the responses to the RFI request and the robust discussions that have taken place throughout this process. Biggest learning is that it is all about listening, relationships and understanding each other.

Duggan: How do you distinguish/prioritize between diverse-owned media, certified diverse media, and media targeted to diverse audiences that is not diverse-owned?

Stewart: We recognize diverse-owned based on ownership percentage, not certification. We appreciate those who have been able to become certified. As far as prioritization our plans are built around the consumer and all our planning starts first with an audience-led approach.

Duggan: The conversation so far has focused on Black-owned media. Are other ownership types also under consideration for additional investment, e.g., Hispanic, LGBTQ, etc.?

Stewart: Our focus has always been on diverse-owned media, inclusive of all under-represented groups.

Duggan: A common challenge we hear at ANA for lack of investment in Black-owned media is the lack of available options. Is that challenge legitimate?

Stewart: With broadcast ratings erosion, media fragmentation and audience signals under pressure, I think that statement could be made of all media today. We recognize fully that we need to do our part to help support the growth of a stronger diverse-owned ecosystem including Black-owned.

Duggan: GM's action plan also includes establishing a Diverse Marketing Incubator Fund. Please discuss the role and status of that. And is there an opportunity for others in the industry to also get behind the incubator initiative?

Stewart: Currently, the Incubator Fund work is in development under the leadership of Tarshena Armstrong, General Motors Director of Diversity Marketing & Development. The incubator fund will dedicate $50 million over the next 10 years to support and scale the diverse-owned media and marketing ecosystem. This investment will support sustainable and long-term growth and is incremental to GM's media spend. The purpose is to make strategic investments in the fundamental enablers of a robust diverse ecosystem focused on fostering equitable representation within the industry. We are always open to collaborating with other organizations that want to explore making a meaningful difference.

Duggan: In all the discussion around ethnic media, there seems to be limited conversation about the creative messaging. It's not enough to simply place advertising in ethnic media; also, the messaging needs to be appropriate. How is GM handling that?

Stewart: We agree wholeheartedly. Media and message needs to be fully aligned for appropriate impact. GM has a long history with several diverse-focused agency partners to help us with the creative messaging and strategy.

Duggan: What types of new positions have been added as a result of GM's increased focus on diverse suppliers?

Stewart: GM has the aspiration to be the most inclusive company in the world. This includes investing in our internal talent pipeline. We have added positions within the marketing and media departments as well as the elevation of an executive role to continue our focus and dedication to this area. In addition, we have added robust agency support in this area.

Duggan: Beyond investment in media, how else is GM supporting diverse suppliers, i.e., supplier development plans? (Supplier development plans are growth and/or improvement plans specific to a diverse supplier supporting a business and may include financial, time and/or mentoring investment by a company.)

Stewart: GM has long had a robust Supplier Diversity Program, both for sourcing and within our Minority Dealer Development Program. We are a member of Free the Works requiring all our marketing investment RFPs to include an underrepresented bidder. GM is also a member of the "Billion Dollar Roundtable" that recognizes organizations that spend at least $1 billion with minority- and women-owned business.

Duggan: Payment terms are a hot topic in the marketing industry. How, if at all, will GM adjust payment terms for diverse suppliers?

Stewart:Recognizing the challenge with cash flow, GM announced 30-day payment terms for all of our diverse-owned media partners. Dentsu has since followed and we are proud of their leadership in joining us.

Duggan: How will you measure the impact of your increase in spend with diverse suppliers -- for both GM and the suppliers?

Stewart: We will create our own internal benchmarks and look to customized solutions based on the type of media and the goals and objectives we establish with our media partners.

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