Agency Hits: African-American Favorites

Multicultural Agency of the Year Entries From Verizon and American Airlines

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Among Multicultural Agency of the Yearentries, campaigns by Verizon Wireless and American Airlines targeting African-American consumers stood out.

GlobalHue, the largest multicultural agency, attempted to create brand affinity for Verizon, regarded by many African-Americans as an elite brand.

The idea was to align Verizon with something that holds important and unique meaning to that community: gospel music. GlobalHue developed the program "How Sweet the Sound," promoted without a hard sell as "a Verizon experience." The effort helped choirs perform and compete, and grew to include 11 cities such as Houston, St. Louis, Memphis and a finale in Detroit in November. More than $800,000 was spent on 83 choirs representing 119,000 congregation members.

Lush drawings of performers in print ads looked like vibrant African-American paintings. Radio and TV ads promoted the concerts, and HowSweetTheSound.com features videos, photos, a blog and an event calendar.

Verizon saw a 14% increase in sales in the cities where the program was implemented.

African-American agency Burrell in Chicago created BlackAtlas.com to persuade African-American fliers that no one understands them like American Airlines. Burrell's insight was that African-Americans have special needs when traveling, such as where to get their hair cut and styled; where to find places of worship and historical sites to visit; and locations of African-American art galleries.

"They were in search of familiarity," Burrell said.

In October 2009, BlackAtlas.com launched worldwide and was promoted as "Your passport to the black experience" with print and radio ads, and an online campaign including banners, Twitter and Facebook.

About 150,000 people visited the site during its first two months online.

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