AL SHARPTON TO SUE MADISON AVE., FEDS

Alleges Minority Shops Get Shortchanged

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The Rev. Al Sharpton today said he will be filing a class action lawsuit alleging the federal government and unnamed advertising agencies colluded to depress fees paid to minority-owned ad shops.

The suit is in response to conflicts between Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett, Chicago, and its minority subcontractors on the U.S. Army ad account. Cartel Group, a Hispanic shop based in San Antonio, Texas, and Images, USA, Atlanta, contend that Leo Burnett has not paid them their government-mandated share of the $95 million business.

The suit is being prepared by Johnnie Cochran.

Madison Avenue Initiative
The Rev. Sharpton

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announced the lawsuit at the first national convention of his National Action Network. The pending suit and other advertising issues was discussed as part of a panel of the network's Madison Avenue Initiative.

In addition to the Rev. Sharpton and Mr. Cochran, other panel participants included Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.; Don Coleman, CEO of Interpublic Group of Cos.' GlobalHue; Earl Graves Jr., president and chief operating officer of Black Enterprise Magazine; Sam Chisholm of the Chisholm-Mingo Group; Rep. Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick, D-Mich.; and Louis Carr, executive vice president of broadcast ad sales for BET.

'No equality in advertising'
"There is no equality in advertising," said Charles Ogletree, a Harvard University professor who chaired the spirited panel.

Mr. Ogletree said that the amount of money spent on minority advertising has a direct relationship to the amount of minority programming on the air. "We have to take action. And if means bringing pain, well, Al Sharpton knows how to give pain."

The panel also discussed a growing movement in multicultural advertising in which minority advertising that previously targeted specific cultural and ethnic groups is falling under an overall "urban marketing" approach, which threatens to move advertising spending into the general market.

"Calling advertising 'urban' is an excuse to take ad budgets away from minority markets," Mr. Graves told Adage.com. "African-Americans are not just dark-skinned white people, as one marketing executive put it. The ad dollars need to be commensurate with market share."

Chrysler review
Chrysler Group recently launched a review of its $40 million ad business in order to change their strategy from minority-targeted advertising to urban marketing.

Jeff Bell, Chrysler's vice president of marketing communications, said the automaker has sent out request for proposals to more than 20 multicultural agencies. Mr. Coleman's agency, GlobalHue, is the incumbent.

Mr. Coleman, speaking from the convention, told AdAge.com that he had not decided whether he would defend the business.

"This is nothing new," Mr. Coleman said. "We've been working the urban mindset for years. The trick is to understand your audience, do your focus group studies and come up with a smart, intelligent approach rather than just putting a rap artist in a commercial."

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