Finally, Black Media and Agencies Unite to Get Their Consumers a Fair Shake

Latino and Asian Firms Are Way Ahead in Efforts to Get Marketers to Better Understand Diverse Customers

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

Black media and ad agencies have had enough ...

… enough of seeing their efforts taken for granted to help marketers better understand the black consumer
… enough of working with budgets that have always been slivers and are now crumbs
… enough of seeing the black consumer misunderstood and far too many mainstream marketers resolving to stay in the dark rather than "get it."

For years, black media companies, ad agencies (and yours truly) have made the case over and over about the value and cultural capital that black consumers bring to the marketplace.

We've conducted large-scale independent segmentation studies that reveal how blacks are not only different from mainstream consumers, but also different from each other in meaningful ways.

We've shared ROI best practices and paraded, in both black and mainstream media, success stories from respected senior-level corporate execs who "get it."

We've shared videos of black consumers telling their stories about the importance of black culture and how they are pained by the stereotypes in ads that continue to show up.

We've told our story in countless publications and documentaries, and there are hundreds of books about black culture, black differences and black insights. (I've written two myself on black cultural marketing.) And still the majority of marketers say "no" to this segment.

So, this summer large black-owned communications companies partnered with several major media firms to launch a history-making black media and marketing consortium. They are launching a revolutionary #INTHEBLACK campaign to encourage increased investment in the African-American consumer marketplace, while helping companies reach the African-American audience more effectively.

(Partners include BET Networks, HuffPost BlackVoices, Black Enterprise, Burrell Communications, Cable Advertising Bureau, Essence Communications, GlobalHue, Inner City Broadcasting Co., KJLH Radio, Johnson Publishing Co., National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, Nielsen, North Star Group, National Newspaper Publishers Association, One Solution, Radio One, TV One, Interactive One, Reach Media, Steve Harvey Radio, The Grio, The Root, The Africa Channel, UniWorld Group, Vibe Media and Walton Isaacson.)

Big yawn? I know.

Although the #INTHEBLACK consortium campaign would appear to be the first, according to coverage in media like The New York Times, we've been here before. The Black Owned Communications Alliance (BOCA) was formed and fizzled in the early 1980s. It is most remembered for the powerful Superman consumer ad created by then JP Martin Associates in an effort to speak to consumers and the industry about a lack of positive images of blacks in the media.

In 2009, a small group of black agencies formed The Association of Black Owned Advertising Agencies. Eugene Morris and Howard Buford, president and vice president respectively, of the association, wrote an open letter in Big Tent to announce their organization and "request a meeting with senior leadership of the ANA in order to open a substantive dialogue about how to bring black-owned agencies into the mainstream." We've not heard from them since.*

Black media and ad agencies are way behind Latino and Asian marketing and media companies, which formed associations years ago. Nonetheless, #INTHEBLACK organizers vow that this effort is different. How? Three ways:

The collaboration of black advertising agencies and media is historic. "As a collective, we are better positioned to demonstrate the value of targeting the black consumer audience and partnering with leading brands, to help them succeed," said Debra Lee, chairman and CEO for BET Networks.

The emphasis is not only on advertisers, but black consumers, who fail to understand their power. "The lessons learned from BOCA [Black Owned Communications Alliance] -- to keep black consumers engaged-- is critical to this effort," says Ken Smikle, CEO of Target Market News. Smikle has a point. Syndicated radio host Tom Joyner has had success encouraging listeners to boycott companies such as Comp USA, which wasn't advertising on black radio stations; Christies; which had decided to auction slave paraphernalia and not Holocaust items; and Katz Media Group, which had asked its salespeople not to sell air time for black radio.

Opportunities will be pursued in cyberspace. In addition to traditional media, targeted digital platforms will be used to communicate with advertisers and consumers. In particular, black social networks and the powerful black blogosphere -- not available to BOCA back in the day -- are critical to this effort as thousands of black consumers are motivated and galvanized via conversations that are often different from mainstream.

"#InTheBlack is the first industry-wide effort of its kind, and is long overdue. It's getting to the point of ridiculousness in terms of the budget allocated to the African-American audience," said Don A. Coleman, chief executive of GlobalHue, a multicultural advertising agency, as reported in The New York Times.

Amen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pepper Miller is the founder and president of The Hunter-Miller Group, Chicago. She is author of "Black Still Matters" and co-author of "What's Black About It?"

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CORRECTION: According to emails provided by the ANA, the group did respond to the open letter.

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