Media Outlets Unite to Boost Black Ad Buys

Over two dozen firms form a consortium to tout the $1 trillion-plus buying power of black consumers.

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A family uses their spending power to shop. (Thinkstock)

(The Root) -- In an environment in which many marketers expect their advertising budgets to decrease and some brands are shifting their multicultural advertising to general market agencies, a consortium of media outlets and marketing agencies has formed to tout the spending power and habits of black consumers.

Titling their effort #InTheBlack, the consortium points out that African-American buying power is expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2015 (according to GfK MRI) and argues that their companies are uniquely positioned to help marketers access those dollars. The campaign, which launched Monday with an advertisement in the business section of the New York Times and coverage by all of the consortium's media outlets, seeks "to encourage increased investments in the African American consumer marketplace while helping companies reach the African American audience more effectively," according to a collective statement.

Spearheaded by BET Networks, the consortium includes many of the largest black-focused media outlets and marketing agencies, including The Root, as well as mainstream companies. The other partners include (in alphabetical order): Black Enterprise, Burrell Communications, Cable Advertising Bureau, Essence Communications, GlobalHue, HuffPost BlackVoices, Inner City Broadcasting Company, Interactive One, Johnson Publishing Company, KJLH Radio, National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, National Newspaper Publishers Association, Nielsen, North Star Group, One Solution, Radio One, Reach Media, Steve Harvey Radio, TheGrio, The Africa Channel, TV One, UniWorld Group, Vibe Media and Walton Isaacson.

While efforts to tout the value of the black consumer are nothing new -- last year Nielsen and the National Newspaper Publishers Association published "The State of the African-American Consumer" report about black spending power and buying habits -- the #InTheBlack effort stands out by having so many competing outlets band together under one umbrella. "We are excited to partner with some of the nation's most influential media and marketing groups to highlight the growing economic opportunity of the black marketplace. As a collective, we are better positioned to demonstrate the value of targeting the black consumer audience and partnering with leading brands to help them succeed," explained Debra Lee, chairman and chief executive officer for BET Networks.

Said Donna Byrd, publisher of The Root, "We're proud to be associated with this collaborative and historic effort. We believe that focusing our collective attention on the economic power of the African-American consumer will have a positive impact on the entire industry."

To put the campaign in context, total American buying power is currently $12.2 trillion, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth. While black spending power comprises more than 8 percent of that figure (black people are 12.6 percent of the U.S. population), the growth of that spending power is outpacing the rate of growth in other groups. Meanwhile, national advertising buys in black media (excluding newspaper and online media) totaled just under $2 billion in 2010, according to Nielsen, a year in which $142.5 billion was spent on ad buys overall.

 

Given these conditions, the outlets behind #InTheBlack see an opportunity to "raise awareness and create a sense of urgency around the economic opportunity the black consumer segment presents," according to their released statement. "African American media have the unique ability to reach the African American consumer base directly and are an important resource in identifying and establishing trends within the black community." They are targeting executives at major Fortune 500 companies, brand leaders and media planners, as well as consumers, with that message.

They point to the fact that nearly one in seven babies born in the United States is now of African-American descent, and call black people "mega-consumers beating out all other ethnic groups in the consumption of automobiles, wine and spirits, baby care products, groceries, health and beauty products, personal care products, apparel, electronics, movies and travel and entertainment," because they spend more on these items relative to other populations. Hoping to gain the attention of luxury categories, they also note a 64 percent increase between 2000 and 2009 in the number of black households earning $75,000, and an 89 percent uptick in those earning $100,000 and more.

The prospect of so many black-focused companies banding together for a common purpose points to myriad possibilities; but at least for now, the consortium's main purpose is building awareness and educating people about the black consumer segment. More information about their campaign can be found at areyouintheblack.org.

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