Byron Allen threatens legal action if Madison Avenue does not allocate more dollars to Black-owned media
Media mogul Byron Allen is threatening legal action against major brands if they don’t allocate more ad dollars to Black-owned media.
Allen sent letters of intent to brands and their agencies last week calling on them to shift a minimum of 2% of their budgets to Black-owned media or face legal action.
Over the past year, Allen, who owns The Weather Channel, as well as seven other cable networks, a syndication production company, local stations and digital assets, says he has engaged in conversations with chairpeople and CEOs at agencies and holding companies as well as brands about investing more in Black-owned media. But one year later, Allen says he has not seen any real progress.
While agencies and brands have been talking about working with more minority-owned and targeted media companies, Allen says this does not mean they are striking deals with Black businesses. When the industry refers to minority-owned, Allen says, many times they are talking about female-led.
“We are only talking about what you do with Black-owned media, and unfortunately it is nearly extinct because of the racism on Madison Avenue,” he says.
In order for brands to “catch up” for what Allen says has been years of “neglect,” he is demanding brands increase the cost to reach a thousand viewers, an industry standard known as CPMs. He also said they should be willing to strike deals based on non-ratings guarantees and look to do broader sponsorships with these outlets.
Allen calls out General Motors and Coca-Cola as two brands that have a poor track record of working with Black-owned media and companies he has sent letters to asking for change.
"General Motors aspires to be the most inclusive company in the world, and that includes how we allocate media spend. We have increased our planned spending with both diverse-owned and diverse-dedicated media across our family of brands," the company said in a statement. "Additionally, we continue to develop and advance initiatives like the Chevrolet 'Real Talk, Real Change' platform and support projects like 'More than That with Gia Peppers,' where we’ve partnered with the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters on a content series for Black American listeners produced and distributed by underrepresented businesses. In this same spirit, we will continue to have an open dialogue with Mr. Allen."
Allen settled a racial discrimination lawsuit with cable giants Comcast and Charter earlier this year that went to the Supreme Court. It ended with both operators agreeing to carry some of his channels.
His case used the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which he says was meant to ensure economic inclusion of freed slaves by saying government and commercial contracting needs to be afforded to African Americans. Allen says the same act would be used to stage a case against marketers.
Allen wants “white America” to stop talking about doing business with Black America and take action.
He does commend IPG Mediabrands for hosting its Equity Upfront, a week-long event that aims to educate clients and help minority-owned businesses market to larger ad agencies and brands, and challenges others to do the same.