Execs, buyers call for more minority media attention

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Although improving, marketers and agencies' use of minority media and agencies is still a long way from where it should be, ad executives and media buyers admitted at the National Action Network's second annual Invitational Summit on Multicultural Markets & Media last week in New York.

Blaming everything from the stampede toward Internet ads to insufficiently trained media staffers and brand managers, media executives used the half-day session Jan. 19 to call for greater attention to using minority media.

"We should all go back and make a commitment," said Page Thompson, president of Optimum Media and worldwide media director for DDB Worldwide, New York. "Without a commitment we will be here for another 25 years waiting."


The Rev. Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network is honing in on the ad industry with its Madison Avenue Initiative unit, told attendees he is encouraged that people in the marketing industry show concern about underuse of minority media. But he cautioned that concern is not enough.

"We don't want this to be an annual vent session," Rev. Sharpton said. "We are more interested in real progress than empty promises. We will do what is necessary to achieve that progress."

Robert Wehling, global marketing officer of Procter & Gamble Co., admitted P&G's past efforts at using minority media and campaigns have been somewhat scattershot-while individual brand managers sometimes do very good campaigns, the company's efforts lack consistency. Too often, he said, campaigns started and ended because of brand managers or budget pressures rather than a real need to reach minorities.

More than a year ago, P&G created a special group to target multicultural markets and has produced a magazine called Avanzando as part of a sampling program aimed at 4.5 million Hispanics. It has also tested a magazine called Strides in Detroit for African-Americans.


Mr. Wehling said P&G expects to expand the two programs this year, but under questioning from minority media executives-upset the money hadn't been spent on existing media-denied that the company was using the vehicles in place of minority media. Instead, he said Avanzando was part of a sampling program and that as the new minority markets group expands this year, P&G's use of media-aimed minorities would likely expand.

Some other marketers and media buyers said that while there may have been too much emphasis on buying efficiency in the past without addressing the differences needed to reach minorities, it was also incumbent upon minority media to demonstrate it works.

"There are some questions on the validity of circulation numbers," said Roderick Gaines, VP-market and business development for Cendant Corp."You place ads not because it is the political thing to do, but to see results. The reality is that in some cases the media outlets are not up to what is needed."

Mr. Gaines said he looks for effectiveness and efficiency, but also credibility in the consumer's mind.

Rev. Sharpton said establishing the Madison Avenue Initiative as a separate division of the National Action Network with its own staff will allow the group to spend more time pursuing advertisers.

"We had three or four companies we worked with this year. Next year we expect to have 30 companies," he said.

Ad Age Group was a sponsor of the event.

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