Black media and agencies unite to get their consumers a fair shake
(September 12, 2012) Black media and ad agencies have had enough...
...enough of seeing their efforts taken for granted to help marketers
better understand the black consumer.
...enough of working with budgets that have always been slivers and are
...enough of seeing the black consumer misunderstood and far too many
mainstream marketers resolving to stay in the dark rather than "get it."
For years, black media companies, ad agencies (and yours truly) have
made the case over and over about the value and cultural capital that
black consumers bring to the marketplace.
We've conducted large-scale independent segmentation studies that reveal
how blacks are not only different from mainstream consumers, but also
different from each other in meaningful ways.
We've shared ROI best practices and paraded, in both black and
mainstream media, success stories from respected senior-level corporate
execs who "get it."
We've shared videos of black consumers telling their stories about the
importance of black culture and how they are pained by the stereotypes
in ads that continue to show up.
We've told our story in countless publications and documentaries, and
there are hundreds of books about black culture, black differences and
black insights. (I've written two myself on black cultural marketing.)
And still the majority of marketers say "no" to this segment.
So, this summer large black-owned communications companies partnered
with several major media firms to launch a history-making black media
and marketing consortium. They are launching a revolutionary #INTHEBLACK
campaign to encourage increased investment in the African-American
consumer marketplace, while helping companies reach the African-American
audience more effectively.
(Partners include BET Networks, HuffPost BlackVoices, Black Enterprise,
Burrell Communications, Cable Advertising Bureau, Essence
Communications, GlobalHue, Inner City Broadcasting Co., KJLH Radio,
Johnson Publishing Co., National Association of Black Owned
Broadcasters, Nielsen, North Star Group, National Newspaper Publishers
Association, One Solution, Radio One, TV One, Interactive One, Reach
Media, Steve Harvey Radio, The Grio, The Root, The Africa Channel,
UniWorld Group, Vibe Media and Walton Isaacson.)
Big yawn? I know.
Although the #INTHEBLACK consortium campaign would appear to be the
first, according to coverage in media like The New York Times, we've
been here before. The Black Owned Communications Alliance (BOCA) was
formed and fizzled in the early 1980s. It is most remembered for the
powerful Superman consumer ad created by then JP Martin Associates in an
effort to speak to consumers and the industry about a lack of positive
images of blacks in the media.
In 2009, a small group of black agencies formed The Association of Black
Owned Advertising Agencies. Eugene Morris and Howard Buford, president
and vice president respectively, of the association, wrote an open
letter in Big Tent to announce their organization and "request a meeting
with senior leadership of the ANA in order to open a substantive
dialogue about how to bring black-owned agencies into the mainstream."
We've not heard from them since.*
Black media and ad agencies are way behind Latino and Asian marketing
and media companies, which formed associations years ago. Nonetheless, #INTHEBLACK
organizers vow that this effort is different. How? Three ways:
The collaboration of black advertising agencies and media is historic.
"As a collective, we are better positioned to demonstrate the value of
targeting the black consumer audience and partnering with leading
brands, to help them succeed," said Debra Lee, chairman and CEO for BET
The emphasis is not only on advertisers, but black consumers, who fail
to understand their power. "The lessons learned from BOCA [Black Owned
Communications Alliance] -- to keep black consumers engaged-- is
critical to this effort," says Ken Smikle, CEO of Target Market News.
Smikle has a point. Syndicated radio host Tom Joyner has had success
encouraging listeners to boycott companies such as Comp USA, which
wasn't advertising on black radio stations; Christies; which had decided
to auction slave paraphernalia and not Holocaust items; and Katz Media
Group, which had asked its salespeople not to sell air time for black
Opportunities will be pursued in cyberspace. In addition to traditional
media, targeted digital platforms will be used to communicate with
advertisers and consumers. In particular, black social networks and the
powerful black blogosphere -- not available to BOCA back in the day --
are critical to this effort as thousands of black consumers are
motivated and galvanized via conversations that are often different from
"#InTheBlack is the first industry-wide effort of its kind, and is long
overdue. It's getting to the point of ridiculousness in terms of the
budget allocated to the African-American audience," said Don A. Coleman,
chief executive of GlobalHue, a multicultural advertising agency, as
reported in The New York Times.
Pepper Miller is the founder and president of The Hunter-Miller
Group, Chicago. She is author of "Black Still Matters" and co-author of
"What's Black About It?"
*CORRECTION: According to emails provided by the ANA, the group did
respond to the open letter.
Go to Target Market News homepage
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