Making Cultural Connections

Making Cultural Connections

Donald A. Coleman isn’t concerned about his daughter taking over the reins of his business. If she does, he believes she’s been well trained. “I started her out in the finance committee–not the mailroom,” he explains, “so she could see how the agency made money. She could see the expenses, she could see how we had to fight for our margins in order to reward our good employees and move forward.” Advertising is a tough business, and Coleman wants to make sure his daughter, Kelli, currently vice president of business development, fully understands the nuts and bolts of the industry.

Coleman, a youthful 58-year-old former NFL linebacker, is a no-nonsense marketing professional who has successfully carved out a vibrant niche for GlobalHue (No. 1 on the be advertising agencies list with $483.5 million in billings). He scoffs just at the mention of the award-winning TV show Mad Men, but he does marvel at its depiction of how drastically the advertising business has changed from a time when white men dominated Madison Avenue, female professionals were underpaid sex objects, black men and women were confined to the custodial class, and contracts were signed over three-martini lunches. “Nobody does lunches today,” he muses. “Who has the time?”

Not Coleman, who usually grabs a midday meal at his desk in his two-level office space in New York City’s financial district. As chairman and CEO of a full-service, all-inclusive multicultural marketing machine, the former football player busily lines up against major general market agencies that have steadily encroached on the minority consumer market, a powerful demographic that used to be the preserve of black marketers.

Even as population numbers increase for people of color and companies vie for their business, black ad agencies have been decimated in the battle for the coveted multicultural consumer. Add the devastating effect of the Great Recession on media, and you’ll find black-owned ad agencies are quickly becoming endangered in the current advertising environment.  Coleman points out that the days of gaining assignments simply based on expertise are over, but he suspects that too many companies have held on to that defunct model.

In the grip of the recent downturn, U.S. advertising spending in 2009 declined 9%, according to The Nielsen Co. As clients now micromanage costs and demand greater and more creative efficiencies, metrics have become increasingly important to justify

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