Advertising to Black Communities

Getting Corporate America to see our value

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radio_one_logoHow will President-elect Barack Obama’s ascension to the highest office in the land impact the perception of African Americans?

It’s a question blacks and even Americans of other races have been grappling with since Obama first gained momentum on the campaign trail. Black advertising professionals addressed what it means for their industry and black media outlets at a panel discussion Tuesday.

The forum, “Urban Legends: What Corporate America Still Misunderstands about Black People,” explored the challenges of conveying to advertisers the monetary value of marketing to African Americans and spending advertising dollars in black-owned media outlets.

“Data always wins,” says Najoh Tita-Reid, former director of multicultural and African American marketing at Procter & Gamble. “The statistics are there and the data should rule our decisions, but many times it doesn’t,” she says about the $892 billion buying power of blacks.

For some companies, a seemingly lack of advertising dollars means smaller and niche demographics get overlooked, including African Americans.

“If you’re not going to view [the African American market] as being a business imperative then black media loses,” Tita-Reid says.

Though some of the panelists, including Alfred C. Liggins, president and CEO of Radio One Inc., acknowledged that advertisers have at least taken a greater interest in African Americans as Obama heads to the White House, the reality remains stark for others.

“African Americans spend money on things that are not marketed toward them,” says Steve Stoute, CEO of Translation Consultation & Brand Imaging, an advertising agency. This can hinder black-owned media outlets from generating advertising revenue.

Also, a push by many Fortune 500 companies for large market penetration has made it even more difficult for black-owned media outlets. Because of their smaller audiences compared with mainstream outlets, corporations may not perceive a return on their investment, and advertising agencies devote fewer resources toward penetrating that market, Stoute says.

The panel also brought attention to the Radio One Black America Study, released in June, that Liggins says debunks some of the advertising industry’s myths about marketing toward blacks. The most important misperception overturned is that the black community is a monolithic community, Liggins says.

“We commissioned a study so people could understand the revenue depth of the African American community across all age demographics…and we’re sharing with folks that have similar interest in this particular demographic as we do,” he adds.

The study, which surveyed 3,400 blacks between the ages of 13 and 74, found 11 segments of African Americans. The group types range from “connected black teens,” a tech-savvy group that believes too much focus is put on the oppression of blacks, to “boomer blacks,” also a tech-savvy group, about 52 years old, that seeks to take advantage of opportunities won by previous generations.

The bottom line: Conveying the need to target African Americans starts at the top, Liggings says. “There’s nobody at the top of the organization that gets emotional about attacking the African American market.”

As for the Obama factor, media outlets and black advertising professionals say it’s

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  • Seraph

    I noticed that this article makes no mention of the new up and rising programs in the industry that are trying to fill the void that this article speaks on. Programs designed to push diversity at the creative level in these agencies. So what about those?

  • Courtney Ware

    I am also noticing a lack in the article, specifically that it does not mention thoughts from all panelists and organizations that participated in the event. Where are the opinions from the One Club representative? In order to get the complete impact of this panel discussion, we, the readers, need to have complete coverage of the event from Black Enterprise. And we expect it.

  • Jay

    There’s one topic not mention in this article that seems like it may have been a good topic to talk about, especially considering the massive youth turn out in this past election. It wasn’t just African Americans voting for a African American candidate, but youth of many races and backgrounds all voting for change with little regard for this country’s history of racism.

    With every generation born after Jim Crow laws are we moving further away from the idea of racism, and how does this affect the progression of professionals with multi-cultural backgrounds?

  • N. Foy

    one name, two words: cyrus mehri.
    the change in advertising has (will have) little to do with barack. do some research.

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  • Unfortunately because of our social and economic lifestyles we have become more of a commercialized product and we have bought into the myth of what constitutes economic freedom in america…(materialism) a few of us will rise to the top while the majority of black people will continue to be deprived and impoverished….I think we need to fundamentally revisit our history, culture and our activism so that we can strengthen and uplift the next generation of young african americans before they get caught up in the social media game…. the psychological impact of slavery has damage so many of us through many generations….. America owes a debt and we should not forgot the devestation of slavery and the systems including policies that still keep us divided….. lets create our own schools and support our businesses…