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In some affluent circles, the expectation to wear luxury apparel is the same across all races. But blacks inside and outside of the boardroom, courtroom, and ballroom have been known to lead fashion in popular culture through the consumption of luxury brands.
African Americans spent $27 billion on apparel and services in 2008, according to data compiled by Ken Smikle, president and founder of Target Market News, a company that researches marketing, advertising, and media targeting African Americans. But despite that, very little luxury advertising is placed in African American media. This is a problem because without advertising, black media can’t survive.
Luxury fashion brands have demonstrated a history of overlooking black publications, says Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., president and CEO of Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., the publisher of Black Enterprise magazine and an outspoken critic of discriminatory advertising practices.
“If African American consumers actually knew what advertisers generally think about them–or how little they think about them– they would be shocked,” said Graves.
Due to the collapse of the American economy, all companies have slowed spending with advertising across the board. However, a snapshot of ad spending at 23 luxury parent companies that sell apparel, jewelry, timepieces, and accessories in the U.S. shows that most of these brands spent very little to no advertising dollars with black magazine titles.
According to data compiled by Kantar Media, a marketing and research company, the top four magazines targeting black audiences, Essence, Ebony, Black Enterprise, and Vibe, received 0.54% of ad revenue from the 23 luxury retailers in 2008. None of the companies placed ads in Ebony magazine that year. Also, according to Upscale magazine, none of the luxury companies included in Kantar’s research placed ads in their publication.
Fourteen of the 23 companies spent zero ad dollars with black magazines, including Rolex Watch Co., Giorgio Armani, Prada, Gianni Versace, and Coach.