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True North Communications' plan to "mainstream" the buying of minority media to ensure increased ad spending brought almost immediate charges from minority ad agencies, which contend the move is an attempt to steal business.

In a clear indication that perceived media bias is a complicated issue for the ad industry, minority-owned agencies suggested there were better ways to assure that minority media get their proper share of advertising than having a general-market agency take over.


"The money is in the media-everybody knows that," said Caroline Jones, president of Caroline Jones Inc., New York. "That is the way they should be doing business anyway. For them to be doing this admits they haven't been doing good work for their clients."

Sam Chisholm, chairman-CEO of Chisholm-Mingo Group, New York, labeled True North's plan an "attempt to look at minority media through white eyes."

"I am very disappointed," he said. "We are capable of going against anyone, but this is a business opportunity built by minorities capitalized on by a multinational."

David Bell, True North chairman-CEO, announced the formation of its New America Media Group as a corporate recognition of a need to do a better job of buying and using minority media. True North's plan is to take two shops in which it owns a minority interest-Siboney USA, Miami (Hispanic), and Stedman Graham & Partners, Chicago (African-American)-and add Imada Wong Communications, Los Angeles (Asian), and form New America Media Group in conjunction with TN Media.

True North's move, unveiled in Washington at an event sponsored by the American Advertising Federation, drew praise from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Bill Kennard.

Mr. Bell called bringing together media people from both kinds of agencies an "organic approach" that would benefit minority media far more than the standard industry "set-aside." But Mr. Bell's reference to getting minority media out of "the silo of advertising" drew anger from Mr. Chisholm.

"We have had some very successful minority agencies [that] have built the concept of minority media and media buying. For him to imply that they can come in and imply that they can move it to another level is very disappointing," he said.


Mike Drexler, chairman of TN Media, said the group would try to get improved data about minority buying patterns and loyalty to demonstrate the effectiveness of using minority media.

Walker Williams, a consultant who heads the Black Advertising Coalition, said True North's move could benefit minority media but hurt minority agencies.

"It's the beginning of a trend," he said. "It will drive minority agencies toward consolidation" with general-market agencies.

Al Schreiber, managing partner of the new True North group, said his hope is to "mainstream as much as we can."

TN group adds healthcare unit

True North Communications this week will announce formation of a healthcare branch of its New America Strategies Group, the network of agencies that targets multicultural audiences.

Called New America Wellness Group, it will provide a range of services from advertising to direct marketing and tailor pharmaceutical and other clients' messages to minority communities.

The agency also will release a study co-sponsored by the Morehouse College of Medicine showing that minority communities represent a significant growth opportunity for healthcare marketers.

"The market we're trying to reach is experiencing tremendous growth both in terms of demographics and economic clout, and is poised for enormous growth," said Sheila Thorne, managing director of New America Wellness Group, to be based in New York. "If you don't look at the ethnic marketplace, you won't experience organic growth."

True North also hopes to capitalize on the boom in direct-to-consumer

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