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In an industry built on making friends -- and not making waves -- Louis Carr Jr., has been a maelstrom of unconventional thinking.

As exec VP-broadcast media sales for BET Holdings' Black Entertainment Television, Mr. Carr, 43, has been confrontational and openly critical of some of BET's biggest advertisers for not spending more on African-American networks.

It's a disparity he found disconcerting enough last year that BET began a push toward F.A.I.R. (favorable adjustment in rates), which resulted in bumping up its cost per thousands by 30% and higher.


The goal was to make up for endemic misunderstanding and resulting "devaluation" of African-American media and consumers among agencies and marketers, Mr. Carr says.

Though he took heat for the program, Mr. Carr says he makes no apologies. He only wanted BET placed on par for perceived influence, value and consumer respect with A&E, CNN, ESPN, Lifetime, MTV and other networks.

"There were some networks that were smaller, with lower ratings, that had not been around as long, and that had higher prices," he recalled after reading a list of the top 20 cable networks. "That was the slap in the face. I realized I have to take a different, more aggressive approach."

His public battles have been with Reebok International and Starcom Worldwide, the media division of Leo Burnett Co., Chicago.

Mr. Carr called this year's upfront selling season "a very very tough upfront. Probably our toughest upfront," he says. "In most cases people don't want to voluntarily give us CPM or budget increases, but in the negotiating process, they found it in their heart to be fair," he says, laughing at his own choice of words.


Most buyers came into the negotiations prepared and knowing through media reports that they were going to be asked to pay higher CPMs "so they weren't shocked as in years past," he says.

This struggle is not new for Mr. Carr. Since he first started in the business, as an account exec with Johnson Publishing Co.'s Ebony in 1983, and later went on to Black Enterprise, he's faced a tough sales process as he's worked to educate buyers about African-American consumers.

"It can be a long and tiresome process," he admits.

Challenges today include building on existing relationships that people have developed, he says.

"If the only relationships and perceptions [about African-Americans] you have are on the news, the Wayans brothers and [Bill] Cosby, that's not enough," he says.


His admittedly aggressive and sometimes unpopular stances have nonetheless left Mr. Carr respected by his peers in the industry, he says. He is a founding member and former president of Target Advertising Professionals, an organization created to empower African-American marketing professionals and those hoping to get into the business.

After all, says Mr. Carr, ethnic marketing -- an issue for BET and its advertisers now -- tomorrow will be corporate America's challenge.

Advertisers' bottom lines will be affected as minorities -- including African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and others -- continue to grow in number.

"What they're calling the minority right now will after the next census, be the majority," he says. "If [advertisers] don't know how to interact with them on a

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