How Advertisers Invested in Black-Owned Media: Verifying Their Commitments

How Advertisers Invested in Black-Owned Media: Verifying Their Commitments

“We are delighted and continue to be impressed with the levels of interest and engagement BNC and BNC GO are generating with agencies and brands, many of which are deliberately reaching out to black consumers for the first time,” said David Fitzpatrick, Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer of Black News Channel. “Every brand has to show growth, and it seems that after decades of ignoring the audiences we serve on a daily basis, companies now see us as a priority demographic,” he said.

The 24/7 news network, which launched in early 2020, had previously shown great interest in its initial presentations in 2021, with Fitzpatrick telling Ad Age at the time that demand ” then exceeded our expectations for a network of start-ups “. “

“This is the first year that we have truly had strong agency membership, strong agency membership and engagement,” said Lynnwood Bibbens, founder and CEO of out-of-home media company ReachTV, in December at a Ad Age Remote broadcast. And 2021 marked the first official presentation of ReachTV, he added.

“And I’ll tell you it’s such a big difference because now I have a predictable income,” Bibbens said. “Now I can do original programming, and now I can do certain things because I know what my income will be. And that’s the benefit when you tie black owned media out with that and give them the ability to predict their income, then they can grow their business. This is why it is so important.

The black-owned company, which operates nearly 2,500 television screens at airports in North America and the UK, has had a successful year in almost every way. In June, Bibbens’ company entered into a major agreement with IPG’s Magna to provide its clients with sponsorship and onboarding opportunities. It also struck a deal with NBCUniversal that puts ReachTV in the media giant’s pitch to advertisers.

But while leaders of black-owned media appear to have seen a collective surge in advertiser interest in 2021, there is still a lot of work to be done, and at least one prominent advocate believes many of those promises fall short. .

Make up for lost time and money

“They are all behind and they are all guilty. None of their numbers are defensible, ”said media mogul Byron Allen, who has been one of the advertising industry’s most vocal critics, of brand and agency promises.

In March, Allen, CEO of Allen Media Group and owner of The Weather Channel alongside other cable networks and media assets, sent letters of intent to various US brands and their advertising agencies calling on them to invest in the minus 2% of their marketing. budgets in black-owned media or face legal action.

It’s a promise Allen has kept at least once, launching a $ 10 billion lawsuit against McDonald’s in May on the grounds that it systematically discriminates against black-owned media companies. He also publicly called on the fast food chain to fire CEO Chris Kempczinski following callous text messages between him and the mayor of Chicago. But a California judge dismissed the lawsuit in late 2021.

In May, McDonald’s pledged to more than double its US investment in media companies, production stores and content creators owned by various companies by 2024. Over the next four years, it plans to increase its ad spending in the United States with platforms owned by Blacks, Hispanics, Asians. 4% to 10% American people, women and LGBTQ.

Allen said most of the promises made by media companies over the past year are small steps and are not enough. “Blacks make up 13% to 14% of the population, we should have at least 15% of your budget for all the years we were left out, for all the zero years,” Allen said. “And pay me more than the white guys for all the years you haven’t paid me.”

As far as Allen is concerned, and what the wording of many advertisers’ investment promises seems to align with, companies should primarily invest in black-owned media, rather than black-targeted media, which in many cases are broader in scope but are often not led at the highest level by members of the communities they serve.

“We’ve had conversations about it… Our opinion is that it comes down to those who serve the public in many ways,” said Louis Carr, president of media sales at BET Networks, which is owned by ViacomCBS and ranked among the top. large media companies targeted by blacks, but not owned, in the United States

“Look at it like that,” said Carr, who pointed out a brand whose day-to-day operations are run by a predominantly black workforce and which delivers content aimed at African Americans (BET was previously a company owned by of Blacks before it was acquired by ViacomCBS, then Viacom, 20 years ago).

And despite the lack of a “black-owned distinction” for the company, Carr adds that advertisers have continued to lean and recognize the value of media targeting black people, “not just optically, but income perspective. “

The network sold its advertising inventory at its annual BET Awards in record time, adding 10 new advertisers to the mix.

High tides don’t necessarily float all ships

While media companies that are both Black American-owned and directed to them with a national presence largely report that advertisers have maintained a healthy pace with their past investment commitments, one cannot always tell. say the same for local and regional black-owned outlets in the United States. , many of whom say they have seen little to no resurgence of interest from brands over the past 18 months.

“Unfortunately… there is nothing new with brands. With the agencies, we had a few inquiries, but nothing that really turned into anything, ”said Tracey Williams-Dillard, editor and CEO of Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, the oldest newspaper owned by blacks in the state.

Founded in 1934 by Williams-Dillard’s grandfather, the legendary weekly is headquartered in Minneapolis, which has become an epicenter of the Black Lives Matter movement following the police murders of George Floyd and Philando Castile in 2020 and 2016, respectively.

It is also a major business hub, with the larger Twin Cities area housing the headquarters of Best Buy, Target, General Mills, 3M, and many more. And these companies have not been silent on their diversity, equity and inclusion goals; in June, Best Buy pledged to channel nearly 10% of its advertising dollars to BIPOC media by 2025, while the last two, both clients of GroupM, publicly signed the investment pledge minimum media of 2% of the agency in the same month.

“We decided that one of the other avenues we could take to further the discussion was to contact some of the companies, some of the local businesses,” said Williams-Dillard. “To date, again, nothing. Crickets.

The somewhat stagnant growth of the Spokesman-Recorder’s advertisers has not failed to give a try, with the newspaper’s advertising sales team confirming that they have attempted to contact and make deals with multiple brands or their advertising agencies, and while preliminary conversations have taken place between the newspaper and at least two US agencies, they have yet to secure a lot of firm publicity commitments.

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