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NEW YORK-Major marketers understand the importance of advertising to the African-American marketplace, but it's more difficult to convince them of the need to develop direct marketing programs for those consumers.

That was the word from Andrew Morrison, president of New York-based direct response company Nia Direct, at the Direct Marketing Association's first African American Marketing Group luncheon earlier this month.

"The African-American market is an approximately $300 billion sleeping giant," he said. "Many marketers don't understand its nuances and how to reach these consumers through direct marketing techniques."

African-Americans spent an estimated $282 billion in 1993, up from $127.1 billion in 1980, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"The future of this market is almost immeasurable," said James Forsythe, Essence senior VP-circulation director, in a speech to the gathering of about 75 people.

The luncheon had representatives from major marketers including Rodale Press, Nynex Corp., AT&T, Sara Lee Corp., Home Box Office and Lew Magram Ltd.

The DMA African-American marketing group was created to help marketers integrate and enhance direct marketing efforts to the U.S. black population. DMA's African American Marketing Group expects to become a marketing council within the DMA by June 1996, Mr. Morrison said.

Blacks are more value and quality conscious than other consumer groups, Mr. Forsythe said.

The key to successful direct mail advertising is list development-carefully selecting and identifying consumers, he said.

There are an estimated 33 million African-American consumers, or about 12% of the U.S. population. That number is expected to grow to more than 16% by 2060, said Robert Acquaye, Black Enterprise circulation director.

Statistics show the African-American market is youthful, concentrated in urban centers and increasingly more educated, Mr. Acquaye said.

Black Enterprise reaches an especially affluent segment of African-Americans. Its readers have an average median household income of $76,000 vs. the median black household income of $19,532, Mr. Acquaye said.

As a result, upscale marketers including Mercedes-Benz of North America, General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac and Toyota Motor Sales USA's Lexus advertise in the publication, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary, he said.

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