We Have to Lead the Dance

We Can't Just Sit Back and Wait to Be Asked

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Karl Carter Karl Carter
Who says we aren't a marketing force to be reckoned with and catered to?

A Big Tent reader, Wendy Berry from Tavis Smiley's company, put me on to some research that was just done by Nielsen.

This study dropped a bunch of bombshells. It seems that African-American tastes and general market tastes are converging at the same time as our buying power as a community is expected to grow 34% to $921 billion by 2011. Our population growth will exceed the general market by four times the rate (26% vs. 6%), so anyone with a half a brain can see that this is a major market to court.

But there's more. Apparently, the AA audience embraces new technology at rates that are higher than the national average. What does this really mean? Sort of what we've known in the biz for a while. That urban culture drives technology adoption. Let's see: the cellphone, beeper, two-way, Sidekick, Treo, iPhone -- all of these devices were first picked up heavy by an urban audience. Then we populate them into pop culture via our music, athletes and celebrities.

We (especially African-American men) watch TV three hours more per day than the national average and have a average viewing age of 30.2 years old. This is seven years younger than the national average as well.

The media and marketing industry suck at diversity, but the urban audience is showing itself to be both a consumer force and a trendsetting force. Can you say disconnect? I knew you could.

And it's even worse in the political arena

In a previous post, I highlighted how political tactics and approach were off when it came to approaching our community. Let's step away from that critique for a moment and say that TV is the best way to go for political campaigns. With African-American audiences consuming TV at a younger average and for more time and adopting technology at a faster rate, how can there not be a move to bring in urban agency partners and tap this market? Yet again, the moves of agencies in power positions confound the wisdom of the market.

Wonder why Hillary Clinton is kicking ass in urban communities? Because she is able to embrace this audience on some level and inherently know the value because of the strong impact the urban community had on Bill Clinton's campaigns.

It's like being at a high school dance all over again. On one hand, you have Barak Obama -- open but cautious about embracing the urban audience for fear that his campaign will be perceived as too black and alienate the masses (Wait: We are the masses -- or at least our tastes are). On the other side of the dance we have the urban community, who want to dance but instead of the really charismatic, intelligent brother in the corner, we dance with whoever asks us and courts us. Throw in a heavy dose of slave-mentality-based "Can we really be in charge" self-doubt and we are well on our way to a self-fulfilling prophecy as it relates to not having the first black president. I mean hell; I just saw Usher and Martha Stewart in a Macy's ad together. If that's not mainstream I don't know what is.

Our market has shown itself to be a major prize to win. If we don't lead the dance, then someone else will. The scene we're seeing play out in politics will repeat itself in our industry. No need for those urban partners, they'll say, let's just make spots that test good with everyone. If that's the case, then shouldn't urban agencies be able to do campaigns that start urban and cross over to general market? And if politics is a product that is broken and not delivering in our communities, then a rebuilding of the brand and product of democracy is needed to reap our full promise.
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