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Without Cultural Fluency, Brands Risk Major Backlash from Ads

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Without Cultural Fluency, Brands Risk Major Backlash from Ads

Effective ads require cultural fluency, the ability to use culture to efficiently and effectively connect across consumer segments.

The Challenge

Conventional ad testing poses challenges with legacy norms and sample bias and can exacerbate a cultural disconnect between your brand and the consumers you need to engage for growth.

The Opportunity

Built on a framework of a deep understanding of the cultural and emotional influences that inform how consumers from diverse backgrounds process ads, CultureRate:Ad helps you connect across culture.

If done incorrectly, advertising can create Backlash, which we define as flipping perception from positive to negative, creating a substantial decline in Brand Favorability. According to our CultureRate:Ad research, a startling 20-25% of consumers experience a “flip” in perception after watching just one ad. Our measurement of Backlash, combined with other metrics, can reveal characteristics of your ad that could be harmful to your brand.

This is a common challenge by leading brands. Read on for several examples of consumer backlash resulting from ads that missed the cultural mark.

Jeep | Winter 2021

Washington Post
With the attack on the U.S. Capitol only a month prior to the airing of this ad, emotions were high – fear, and anger, and joy – and all still fresh in the public consciousness. Calls by Jeep for unity and “the middle” were panned as “late” and “tone-deaf.”

Featuring Bruce Springsteen, a working-class hero of days gone by, the somber embrace of nostalgia didn’t seem to be an answer to the challenges of “the road ahead.” While it may have been intended as heartfelt, especially coming from the Boss, the dissonance between tone and message seemed to offer more confusion than reconciliation for Americans across all political persuasions. The ad was eventually pulled, following consumer backlash combined with a Springsteen drunk driving scandal.

Twitch | September 2020

esports.com
In its attempt to celebrate the Hispanic community during Hispanic Heritage Month, Twitch was heavily criticized for their campaign launching “stereotypical” emotes and spotlighting primarily English-speaking streamers. The streaming community responded with outrage. Within three hours, Twitch apologized saying they “missed the mark” and removed the emotes from the platform.

Peloton | Fall 2019

New York Times
With an ad widely criticized as “sexist and dystopian,” Peloton effectively tanked their stock by nearly $1.5 billion. The ad features a woman who received an exercise bike from her partner as a Christmas gift. She’s inspired to record a video diary of her new exercise routine, which she says, “changed her.” Critics slammed the ad as “offensive” and “damaging” calling attention to the fact that she was thin at the beginning of the ad, and implying her partner was patronizing for telling her to get fitter and lose weight.

Dolce & Gabbana | Winter 2018

Fast Company
In a failed attempt at a gaffe, a D&G ad featured a confused Asian woman attempting to eat spaghetti with chopsticks. Dressed in a red, European style dress the ad subtly suggested that while the woman embraces European fashion, she’s too stupid to truly understand European culture. Chinese consumers took to social media (Weibo), calling the ad offensive, racist and deliberately misrepresenting their country as a third-world nation.

Pepsi | Spring 2017

New York Times
With borrowed imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement, Pepsi failed in its attempt “to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding”. The ad, featuring Kendall Jenner, shows attractive young people smiling, laughing, dancing, and clapping at a public demonstration. Supported by cheers and applause from the crowd, Jenner, a white woman, gives a grinning police officer a can of Pepsi. Social media erupted with criticism accusing Pepsi of “appropriating imagery to sell its product, while minimizing the danger protesters encounter and the frustration they feel.” Within a day of airing the ad, Pepsi immediately pulled it and offered a public apology.

Answering the Challenge

While connecting across diverse consumer cultures certainly comes with challenges, there is good news. You don’t have to risk spending millions on an ad campaign that generates Backlash and causes harm to your brand, and even your company’s stock price. Collage Group’s CultureRate:Ad offers brands a superior way to assess the cultural fluency and resonance of ads. 

CultureRate:Ad measures ad performance using a proprietary metric, the Ad Cultural Fluency Quotient. With a deep oversample of diverse Americans, brand leaders get rich insight into how consumers process ads across race and ethnicity, generation, sexual orientation, gender, and other factors. Brand leaders use CultureRate:Ad and CultureRate:Brand to build cultural fluency, the capability to drive total market growth from inclusive, diverse-led marketing.

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Reach Cultural Fluency Through LGBTQ+ Cultural Traits

Reach Cultural Fluency Through LGBTQ+ Cultural Traits

The LGBTQ+ community is growing, skews young, and has tremendous buying power in the U.S. (estimated at $1 trillion).

How should your brand engage with a consumer segment that’s Social Minded? Fill out the form to see how we define Cultural Traits, and, what actions you can take to reach this rapidly growing audience. 

 This key consumer segment includes at least 12 million American adults, a number likely to grow rapidly as American culture becomes more accepting of diverse sexual and gender identities. To capture the growth and influence of these consumers, brands and marketers must deepen their understanding of the LGBTQ+ consumer segment.

Across the last several years, Collage Group has been developing powerful new tools to help brands become more Culturally Fluent.  Our Cultural Traits are central to this effort. These data-driven tools provide measures of cultural variation that reveal insights into the similarities and differences across consumer segments.  Collage Group members use these tools to build more efficient general market campaigns, as well as more effective dedicated activations. 

Cultural Traits are divided into two complementary methodologies:

• Cultural Attributes: Provides a broad and powerful cultural profile of target segments and individual consumers.

• Group Traits: Offers a detailed and nuanced look at cultural variation by “zooming in” on the way that cultural attributes are expressed within each segment.

You can learn more about the Cultural Traits for the LGBTQ+ segment, as well as in-market examples of brands activating on these insights by filling out the form above.

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Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Ads: Dunkin’

Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Quick Service Restaurant Ads: Dunkin'

In this CultureRate:Ad study we had the opportunity to test a recent ad by Dunkin’ called “Welcome to Dunkin’” and released in September 2020. In this video, the national coffee chain reveals how their brand offers consumers a sense of normalcy—and happiness—amidst the pandemic. Dunkin’ conveys a comforting message to their customers: “Even when everything feels like it’s changing, there are some things that’ll always stay the same. We’ll keep making the coffee, and you keep running.”

The ad isn’t just cheerful and relatable, it’s also a hit with multicultural consumers. This was one of the highest-performing QSR ads of the set, ranking within the top two for each racial/ethnic consumer segment. Dunkin’s ad joins an elite group of ads that resonate with all four consumer segments – Hispanic, Black, Asian, and White – with an A-CFQ (Ad-Cultural Fluency Quotient) score of 75 or higher for each group.

It’s not often that we see this kind of balance among ad features. This indicates that all of the elements of the ad play into each other nicely, creating an appealing sense of harmony.  Achieving cohesion among ad elements is an important step in guarding against viewer confusion, an emotional response that can harm an ad’s performance.

Why does Dunkin's ad perform so well among multicultural consumers?

Dunkin’s “Welcome to Dunkin’” ad builds emotional resonance by leaning into COVID-themes, like showing employees in masks and customers enjoying their coffee by themselves in the car. But they keep it lighthearted by using upbeat music, bright colors, and happy gestures like smiling, dancing, waving, and high-fiving.

The ad’s playful tone resulted in high rates of positive emotions across segments, like happiness, excitement, and pride.

CultureRate:Ad and CultureRate:Brand are major initiatives that provide a research solution to members’ mounting need for comprehensive, ongoing analysis of the cultural fluency of branding and advertising. If you’d like to explore how Collage Group can help your brand with competitive analysis, ad testing or brand testing, fill out the form below.

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Top Ten Brands on Shared Values for 2020

Top Ten Brands on Shared Values for 2020

Read on to find out which brands consumers identify as sharing their values - and the practices they used to get there.

In a time where people are exposed to more advertising and have more options than ever before, it’s critical for brands to create authentic connections to keep consumers coming back. One way to do this is to demonstrate you care about the things your consumers care about. After all, we know that many consumers across racial and ethnic segments will reward brands that share their values and punish those that defy them.

Collage Group’s brand rating tool, CultureRate:Brand, provides insight on how well brands are signaling shared values with consumers.

 The tool, which is designed to assess cultural fluency (i.e., number of segments the brand resonates with), measures shared values by asking brand-aware consumers to agree or disagree with the statement “This brand cares about the things that are important to me.” Here we see the top ten brands among more than 400 in our database that consumers aged 18-39 most often identify as sharing their values.

But we know that America is diverse and different segments have different values that line up with different brands.

So we took a deeper look at the data to understand which brands are connecting on shared values across racial and ethnic segments and which are connecting on shared values with specific segments. The top 10 lists for each racial and ethnic group are below.

First thing to note, both Lysol and Clorox rank highly across segments.

In the era of COVID-19, when consumers are placing higher value on cleanliness and staying healthy than ever before, it’s not surprising to see these brands pop. Lysol and Clorox have proven they value cleanliness and health by having select products approved by the EPA to successfully kill the COVID-19 virus. And they’ve continued to show their commitment to health and safety by making generous donations to various organizations (CDC, NEA and the American Red Cross) fighting against COVID-19 and helping to get the country back up and running.

Second thing to consider, outside of a handful of brands appearing across lists, we also see significant variation by segment.

For example, the top 10 list for shared values for the Black segment includes Chick-Fil-A, Nike, and Fenty. Nike’s a no-brainer given their extensive and very public support for racial equality. And Chick-Fil-A’s high ranking is probably tied to its association with Christianity and Christian values—something the highly religious Black segment likely resonates with.

Fenty Beauty, a brand founded by music superstar Rihanna in 2017, is a relative newcomer that’s been able to connect with Black consumers through its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Fenty has gone that extra step and baked these values into the products it sells. For example, it offers 50 shades of foundation, a substantial improvement over many other brands that treat dark skin as a monolith. The brand also features models of varying genders in their advertising. And it donates 100% of proceeds from select products to the Clara Lionel Foundation, which provides extensive support to marginalized communities around the world.

Our findings illustrate that both rising and established brands can successfully communicate to consumers that they share their values. And you can too.

In addition to shared values, our proprietary B-CFQ (Brand Cultural Fluency Quotient) metric also measures Brand Fit, Brand Relevance, Brand Trust, Brand Advocacy, and Brand Memories. Fill out the form below to learn more about our category-specific CultureRate:Brand studies and how you can use them to increase your brand’s cultural fluency. 

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While Love of Family Is Universal, Representation Must Be Nuanced

While Love of Family Is Universal, Representation Must Be Nuanced

Family is a commonly shared value across diverse segments, but that doesn’t mean it’s one-size-fits-all. Read on to understand the nuances within multicultural family life for authentic representation and effective connection on the path towards Cultural Fluency.

Fill out the form to download a sample of the study.

Human beings are social by nature – this is universally true. No matter our background, we all crave connection. We value family and anchor our lives to our loved ones.

Our research confirms that family matters to pretty much everyone, but our data also reveals: how is family experienced and expressed differently across cultural backgrounds?

These subtleties aren’t just food for thought – getting them right matters. Multicultural Americans, especially Black and Unacculturated Hispanic consumers, say it matters a lot to them that advertisements represent families that look like theirs. And a fifth of Americans, especially Black consumers, want to see more non-traditional family structures represented.

How should brands activate on the shared value of family connection?

Brands must understand nuances in multicultural family dynamics to accurately represent and connect with these powerful segments. In doing so, you’re not only pleasing consumers – you’re taking a strategic approach to be Culturally Fluent.

Authentic representation of one segment doesn’t come at the cost of resonance with other segments. In fact, genuine cultural signals are what resonates. Even if the cues aren’t personally relatable, the recognition of authenticity is priceless. An accurate portrayal of one segment is a way to position your brand as trustworthy and respected by all consumers.

Collage Group’s 2020 research initiatives dive deep into family values, attitudes, and behaviors to distinguish variations across segments and uncover authentic details. Keep reading for high-level segment takeaways and download the deck for more, including family profiles by segment.

1. Which consumers value the role of song, music and dance in the family?

About a third of Hispanic and Black Americans value the role of song, music, and dance in the family. These activities are ways to bond with one another and are also likely to be present at family gatherings.

For instance, Oreo acknowledges the lively nature of Hispanic American families with a relevant portrayal of the importance of song and dance in family life. Their recent spot features Latin pop singer Becky G video-chatting her brother. They connect over a shared love of music – and Oreos – as they sing and dance over the phone with her extended family in the background.

Our CultureRate:Ad research shows that this ad successfully represents the Hispanic experience of the universal Group Trait of Family, while simultaneously resonating across segments (including White viewers). The music-and-dance-filled ad did exceptionally well with the Hispanic segment, with an A-CFQ score of 81 (+6 points above the resonance threshold of 75), as well as the Black segment (A-CFQ score of 74). But the power of authentically representing the Hispanic family was appreciated by other segments, too, with A-CFQ scores of 73 for the Asian segment and 72 for the White segment. Even though the ad was in Spanish, consumers recognize and appreciate the cultural cues of singing and dancing as relevant to Hispanic families.

2. How do Unacculturated Hispanic and Asian American consumers value family?

Both segments like to make their families proud and live in accordance with familial expectations. They also tend to be especially loyal to their families and prize their input when making decisions.

This spot by Chase leans into Asian Americans’ desire to please their elders. A son is learning to make noodles from scratch, and along the way seeks guidance from his mother and approval from his grandmother.

3. How often do multicultural consumers spend time with family?

Multicultural Americans tend to have more relatives and be closer to distant relatives than White Americans. Moreover, Hispanic and Black segments spend more time with their relatives and are more likely to build close relationships with them than White Americans are.

Connect across segments through this common value and illustrate how your brand can strengthen family ties. For instance, a recent Christmas spot by Etsy shows a Black family gathered for the holiday. The son’s new boyfriend joins the celebration, but feels intimidated by all the relatives, until they warmly “welcome him to the family” with a personalized gift.

For more insights on the study, download an excerpt of the sample above. Learn more about membership, custom research and more by filling out the form below. 

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Race, Ethnicity is the Most Important Part of Identity for Multicultural Consumers

Race, Ethnicity is the Most Important Part of Identity for Multicultural Consumers
Understanding consumer identity is key to building authentic connections. Read on for actionable insights.
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Replay our webinar featuring these findings, “New Insights for Authentic Multicultural American Connections.”

Consumers are expecting more of brands as cultural transformation accelerates in the U.S., with multicultural consumers now representing more than 100 percent of population growth.

As their expectations increase, understanding how consumers define themselves is key to building authentic connections. In our recent research, we found that nearly 3 in 4 multicultural consumers say race and ethnicity is an important part of their identity, outweighing all other factors including personality, being American, gender and more. For Hispanics, this is especially high for unacculturated consumers.

Digging deeper into consumer identity, we asked consumers to select the three aspects they would most likely use to describe themselves.

Race and/or heritage ranks at the top of the list for most multicultural consumers, with the exception of acculturated Hispanics (ranked at 4). Personality and being American are also key factors for identity across all consumer segments.

Given the importance of consumer identity through the lens of race and ethnicity, opportunities are rapidly increasing for brands to deepen cultural connections.

We asked consumers about the actions brands would need to take for them to go out of their way to buy from that brand or company. The top answer across all multicultural consumers: they are most willing to reward brands that support people of their own race or ethnicity. 

What are brands to do to take action on these insights? Multicultural consumers told us a variety of things. Topping the list: more transparent business practices, diverse representation in advertising, diverse stories in ads and authentic stories of diverse people in ads. 

At Collage Group, we have built a framework to help brands understand your consumers, identify how they connect and relate to your brand, and take the steps needed to improve your brand and ad performance. We call this our Cultural Fluency Roadmap. Contact us to get started.

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Measuring The Cultural Fluency of Healthcare Brands

Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Health Care Brands

Our recent CultureRate:Brand study tested the cultural resonance of 18 healthcare brands.

One of our key findings from this study is that many health insurance companies fail to resonate with multiple cultural segments. In fact, of the six health insurance brands we tested, five did not resonate with any of the four core segments (Hispanic, Black, Asian, and non-Hispanic White).

Fill out the form to download an excerpt of the study.

This struggle to resonate is likely because people don’t necessarily feel a personal connection to health insurance brands the way they do with other categories such as food. In addition, since CultureRate:Brand studies survey the New Wave of consumers (ages 18-39), these survey respondents are young and have less experience with health insurance. Many of them, if they are under the age of 26, may still be on their parents’ plan. Or these young consumers may not have health insurance at all because they feel healthy and invincible. They haven’t had an opportunity to build trust and relationships with providers over time. Health insurance brands aren’t alone here. In previous CultureRate:Brand research in the Telecom and financial services spaces we also saw a struggle to resonate. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to capture people, but rather that you need to be thoughtful and strategic about how you move forward.

So how can healthcare brands build connections and increase resonance with New Wavers across cultural segments?

The best place to start is looking at your B-CFQ component scores to see where the opportunities to improve are easiest to achieve. Take, for example, Alka-Seltzer. Alka-Seltzer received a cultural reach score of 1.

 As you can see in the chart below, White and acculturated Hispanic consumers ranked Alka-Seltzer around average for most of the components, while Black and Asian consumers rated the brand below average for most of the six components.

On the other hand, bicultural and unacculturated Hispanic consumers rated Alka-Seltzer strongly above average across the board. Bayer, which owns Alka-Seltzer, has been focused on marketing Alka-Seltzer in Latin American countries since at least the 1980s. In the late 1990s, Bayer partnered with a Hispanic advertising agency to develop a culturally specific campaign, in the Spanish language, which included TV, radio, and print ads to demonstrate the relevance and fit of the brand. Clearly this strategy has worked! Alka-Seltzer has gained a sort of cult following among Hispanic families as a cure for all types of ailments.  People share memes in Spanish showing, for example, a doctor prescribing a patient who is sick in bed to drink a soda with Alka-Seltzer.

One component where Alka-Seltzer did really well – around or above average with five out of the six segments – is strong brand trust. Even if it’s not a consumer’s preferred brand, or they don’t have great memories associated with it, they still trust that it’s a reliable product that will do its job if they need it. These high scores are good news for the brand, which can use these positives to offset some of the areas where they performed less well, such as brand values or willingness to be a brand advocate. These findings reveal opportunities and some next steps to further connect the brand with these segments: focus on what they value and what they need from insurance policies in the messaging, partner with relevant influencers to increase trust and brand-buzz, and then give them a reason to talk about the brand.

 

Are you interested in seeing this study applied to your brand? Fill out the form below to speak with a Collage Group representative.

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Measuring the Cultural Fluency of USA Today’s “National Brand Statement” on Black Lives Matter.

Measuring the Cultural Fluency of USA Today’s “National Brand Statement” on Black Lives Matter.
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In our latest round of ad testing using CultureRate:Ad, we focused on USA Today’s “National Brand Statement” on Black Lives Matter.

In this video, USA Today takes a clear stance on the issue of racial injustice. The plain black screen starts out with just one name – George Floyd. In a matter of seconds, the screen populates with names of other Black Americans that have unjustly lost their lives, and in the background, voices of protesters grow increasingly loud. The spot concludes with an explicit message: “Silence is not an option.”

Screenshot of USA Today's Response to Black Lives Matter

USA Today’s poignant ad did not cross the resonance threshold with everyone, but it was a clear winner for the Black segment. It was the highest performing media/telecom ad for Black consumers, with an A-CFQ score of 80. This ad joins a very small elite group of ads that can provoke that level of connection (Head & Shoulders “Royal Oils: BET Black History Month” and Coca-Cola “History Shakers”).

The top performing feature of this ad was the message. And while it’s sobering, about half of all respondents appreciate the message and say it was their favorite feature of the ad. On top of that, 72% of all viewers, and 81% of Black viewers, agree that it’s an important message. This was higher than any other ad in the study. Black respondents shared that they love the solidarity from USA Today supporting Black Lives Matter.

USA Today’s ad is unique in evoking an array of emotions. While many ads tend to cluster around one emotion, here the data is more fragmented across emotions, which would be expected given the sensitivity around the topic. Even still, feeling proud is the highest reported emotion, and this is especially true among Black viewers at 31%.

USA Today not only took a definitive stance on this issue – they went all in. They used explicit language to name and remember the Black Americans whose lives have been taken unjustly. They expressly referenced Black Lives Matter. And they made a clear assertion that staying silent on the issue is harmful. This course of action was powerful in both supporting and connecting with Black Americans.

To learn more about CultureRate:Brand, Cultural Fluency or Ad Testing, fill out the form below.

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Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Ads: Home Care

Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Ads: Home Care
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In this CultureRate:Ad study, we had the opportunity to test a recent ad by Lysol, “Questions Need Answers,” released in July 2020.

Amidst these uncertain times, Lysol’s ad aims to answer people’s common questions about how and where they can use Lysol disinfecting products.

The ad creatively displays the questions as if someone typed them into an internet search engine and shows people all the unlikely places they can use Lysol – including game controllers, packages, couches, and laptops. And it was a hit! This was one of the highest-performing home care ads of the set, resonating with all four consumer segments – Hispanic, Black, Asian, and White – with an A-CFQ score of 75 or higher for each group. And this ad ranked within the top two for each segment.

The top performing features of this ad were the message and visuals. And a whopping 80% of consumers agreed that this ad has an important message – higher than any other home care ad tested. This ad does a great job of capturing people’s attention in a relatable way – typing questions into a search bar – even ones that may seem a little outlandish! And viewers seem to like the format of learning about the product this way.

Lysol’s ad clearly and effectively communicated the value of their products, mitigating viewer confusion. The ad’s confident tone resulted in high rates of positive emotions across segments, like happiness, excitement, and pride.

Interested in seeing this study applied to your business?  We offer all Collage Group members a free detailed mini-report on one ad and one brand for each membership subscription (Latinum and GenYZ). Members may obtain more reports on any ad or brand at an additional cost.

For membership inquiries, demos, or questions, please fill out the contact form below. 

 

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Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Nonalcoholic Beverages: Jarritos

Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Nonalcoholic Beverages: Jarritos
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In this CultureRate:Brand study for non-alcoholic beverage brands, we had the opportunity to test Mexican soda brand, Jarritos, with multicultural consumers.

You might expect Jarritos to do well with Hispanic New Wave consumers – and you’d be right – but you might be surprised to know that the brand achieved a cultural reach score of 2, being culturally resonant with the Asian New Wave segment as well.

You may be wondering why Jarritos performed so well with these two groups. On the slide below, you see the percent of each segment that agrees with each of the six components of our Brand Cultural Fluency Quotient (B-CFQ). We see trends both across segment lines (columns) and across specific components (rows).

When you look at the different components, you’ll notice that pretty much across the board, Hispanic Acculturation segments score Jarritos very highly. Asian consumers share much of this sentiment, but aren’t as fanatic when it comes to perceiving Jarritos as a brand which shares their values. So there’s still room to improve, but Asian consumers – who are often adventurous and seek out authentic options for food and drink – clearly have strong affinity for this Hispanic heritage brand.

For Black and white New Wave consumers, though, Jarritos falls behind. With one exception – the Black segment sees Jarritos as a brand they can advocate for, potentially for its cultural significance, even if it’s not one they relate to personally. This sentiment is something Jarritos can leverage in future campaigns seeking to broaden its consumer base.

Collage Group members get access to a free, detailed report on one ad and one brand per year. Members may also obtain more reports on ads at an additional cost. Fill out the form below to learn more about the benefits of membership, cultural fluency, brand testing and more.

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