Mad People: Ad Apartheid on Madison Avenue

Illustration for article titled Mad People: Ad Apartheid on Madison Avenue

Considering the President and First Lady's recent (illegal) ad popularity, this article by Sanford Moore on Ad Week, originally published last August is both interesting and timely

As reported by Nielsen, black-targeted media received some $2.3 billion in 2008. This figure represented 1 percent of measured ad spending. The figures for Q1 2009 reveal the same "niggardly" level of spending being allocated to black-targeted media. Of the $1.3 billion spent by the federal government via Madison Avenue prime contractors in 2006-07, only $6.1 million found its way into black media vehicles, according to Nielsen.

When confronted with these figures, Madison Avenue agencies attempt to rationalize their policies with media gibberish about "impressions delivered" and meeting arbitrarily concocted media criteria. What is being done is the same as when blacks were declared three-fifths of a person in the Constitution. Despite Jim Crow having been declared illegal more than 40 years ago, Madison Avenue continues to enforce a condition of marketing "peonage" on black Americans and the media that serve them.

Let us not forget that one of the differences between totalitarianism and democracy is the extent to which a free media system is supported by paid advertising. Also, let us consider the historical context since Cole uttered his scathing remark. Changes include the U.S. Voting Rights Act being passed, black rule in South Africa, black CEOs running U.S. corporations, black creative expression setting the tone of America's pop culture, and the U.S.'s first African-American president. Yet Madison Avenue refuses to lift the "cotton curtain" of discrimination.



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