That said, it doesn't mean that the collective body of Black agencies couldn't use a transfusion, or a shot of adrenaline. Then again, we could easily say the same thing about the entire advertising industry. We can't take much solace in that. We need to be about self-medication to make sure we prove the naysayers wrong. So what's the prescription? I think it involves several things:
The only constant is change. Our industry has changed more in the past 10 years than in the previous 50. We must be open to change if we want to survive. It is no longer enough to just develop insightful, engaging commercials. We must develop and execute total marketing programs that provide measurable results. We must invest more in talent, research and technology to stay ahead of the curve.
Form strategic alliances and partnerships. The competitive environment has never been fiercer for African-American agencies. Small, independently-owned African-American shops are routinely pitted against giant multinationals. Going it alone is tough. When there is a good fit, we must be open to finding creative and effective ways to form strategic alliances and partnerships to overcome the size and resource differential. One can be a lonesome number.
Get more involved with the industry. Although the numbers of African Americans in our industry are abysmally low, the number of African-American advertising professionals who attend industry conferences, seminars, trade shows and other industry functions is even lower. One reason given for this non-participation is "the subject matter is not relevant to us." Without your participation and input, it may never be relevant to you, because it is made relevant for those who attend. Additionally, the vast majority of the topics are relevant because they are industry topics -- the industry African-American agencies are a part of. Get involved!
No man is an island. Stop thinking just about your own business and think about what you can do to help solve some of the problems all African-American agencies are facing. How do we recruit and retain talent? How do we address budgets being redirected to other ethnic groups? How do we develop more research on our segment? No single agency can solve these problems. It takes a collective effort; and Black media should not be left out of the equation. The formation of the Association of Black-Owned Advertising Agencies, where we collectively use our expertise to address critical issues facing the market and our agencies, is a step in the right direction. Let's all work more closely together for the greater good.