Monday, August 15, 2005

Essay 111

Anyone who works at a Black advertising agency will ultimately produce — usually within the first six months of employment — at least one ad featuring the following:

1. A rap music track.
2. A family reunion and/or barbecue.
3. Tom Joyner.

The interview below appeared in USA Today. It almost reads a little too self-promotional, as if Joyner is fishing for more sponsors. Nonetheless, it’s worth checking out.


Marketing to the Masses Tends to Miss Many

Radio Host Has Pointers for Reaching African-American Audience

(Aug. 15) - Those who assume that African Americans who are both middle age and middle class watch pretty much the same movies and TV programs and read the same newspapers and magazines as do their white counterparts do so at their own peril. Try this experiment: Go around the workplace and say the name “Tom Joyner.”
When USA TODAY corporate management reporter Del Jones did that, white colleagues gave him an unknowing stare, while black colleagues lit up in recognition. Joyner reaches 8 million nationwide on 115 radio stations. His listeners average 40 years in age and have an average household income of $48,500. As the African-American market closes in on $1 trillion a year in spending power, Joyner warns that many companies have yet to figure out how to capture it.

Q: What is the biggest single mistake companies make with African-American consumers?

A: They think they can reach them through mainstream advertising. That’s a huge mistake.

Q: I’m white. Am I really so different than my African-American colleagues that advertisers can’t reach us both with the same commercials on the same programs?

A: They can, and it works up to a point. But they could have so much more if they specifically and unashamedly direct their efforts to an African-American audience. This strategy goes back 50 years when Ebony magazine convinced advertisers to use black models in their print ads. To this day there are generations of black people who are loyal to some of those brands. As a people, that’s the way we are, and we’ve got a whole lot of money. Black people fly and love to fly cheap. Southwest Airlines advertised unashamedly on my show and with my endorsement and did things like recognize Black History Month at their gates. They went right after us.

Q: Are advertisers that have in the past targeted only upscale white consumers starting to target the upscale African-American market?

A: Yeah, we’ve done a cruise for six years. The average price is like $3,500 a person not including airfare, and we sell out. Seventy-five percent of the people on the ship haven’t cruised before. Why not? Are they afraid of water? No. No one’s asked. Royal Caribbean understands that now. They use a black agency to advertise to the African-American consumer, and they get a lot of black people on their ships.

Q: Do companies have a right to target only white consumers, or should you expose them on your program?

A: Expose them as stupid? We can’t do that, we can’t really go after and expose companies, not and remain a media company.

Q: I was listening to your show on the Washington, D.C., affiliate and a local car dealership commercial promised to waive credit checks for car buyers. That’s a pitch that I have not heard on the stations I listen to, and it seemed to make the assumption that African Americans have lousy credit. Aren’t they offended?

A: No. We do have bad credit. That ad is good business. They’re inviting the African-American audience to do business with them.

Q: I’m not understanding this. The car dealership is assuming your listeners do not pay their bills, and that’s OK?

A: You can have bad credit by having a certain ZIP code. We need some credit.

Q: I’m starting to see. Your listeners take no offense because African Americans see bad credit to be discrimination. The dealership is not being offensive, but rather positioning itself as fixing the inequity?

A: We face redlining and profiling. You need a car and you ain’t got no credit. What’s wrong with a guy inviting someone to buy a car and he’s going to waive the credit check? No one else will.

Q: It seems that African-American women are portrayed in advertising as sassy. In a Budweiser campaign African-American men greeted each other with “Whassup?” Aren’t these stereotypical portrayals the modern-day equivalent of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben?

A: No. Not in an ad. The Whassup ad was not directed at the African-American, but at the mainstream audience. What you call sassy is nothing more than going after that hip-hop generation, an attitude which crosses all ethnic lines. It’s not black people who are keeping hip-hop alive. It’s not the same as Aunt Jemima ads when you had Hambone and “Yessir, boss, try my biscuits.” It’s not the same. This is just pop culture.

Q: You don’t seem to find any advertising directed at the African-American market offensive.

A: Hmmmm. The Psychic Friends Network went after broke people who have problems.

Q: What about McDonald’s? They made news when young African-American actors said, “I’d hit it,” which suggested in hip-hop slang that they’d like to make love to a double cheeseburger.

A: Again, that’s not directed at an African-American market. It’s pop culture. Hip-hop is worldwide. There were probably a lot of sensible black people who thought it was offensive, but it wasn’t as bad as the president of Mexico saying that Mexican people take the jobs that black people don’t want.

Q: African-American ad agencies are complaining that too much of the diversity dollar is redirected to the Hispanic market. Are companies making a mistake?

A: No. That’s very smart, and I understand. They have to specifically reach out to the Hispanic market. They don’t always understand the same is true for us. Look at all the black advertising agencies that have folded in the last couple of years because they are targeting us through mainstream agencies. I don’t see anything racial in it. They are just being stupid and making a huge mistake.

Q: Other than Southwest Airlines, what companies have figured out how to advertise to the African-American market, and what do they do right?

A: Did you get a list of our advertisers? McDonald’s is one. They know how to do it. They sponsor things on my show like our black history fact. They show an interest in our culture and our community. It’s not enough to light up the arches and open up the door.

Q: Some magazines publish lists like The Best Companies for African Americans. Those magazines are fat with advertising from the companies on the list. The perception is that companies that advertise make the list. Corporate diversity officers call this “pay to play.” Shouldn’t such lists be for those who hire and promote African Americans?

A: It’s not a shakedown. If you are going to be one of the best companies for African Americans, you should advertise to African Americans.

Q: Momentum in advertising is shifting toward the Internet. Are companies making any big mistakes in how they market to African Americans online?

A: We're making money on BlackAmericaWeb. Yeah. I think that everyone who comes to BlackAmericaWeb, or our competition BlackVoices and BlackPlanet, are very smart. We are on the Internet. We’re making money. Don’t let anyone fool you that black folks aren’t on the Internet. Oh, yes we are. ... And it’s paying off.

08/15/2005 07:02
© Copyright 2005 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. All Rights Reserved.


on a lark said...

Who died and made Tom Joyner arbiter of all that is applicable to advertising to Blacks and Hispanics? His is the most cliched opinion—that we are one monolithic, fast-food eating, hip-hop demographic lying in wait of the next pied-piper. His views are no better than those of the racists he prides himself on reaching and his radio show (of which I can only tolerate for a few seconds) reeks of minstrelsy and wreaks havoc on the efforts of those committed to actual positive change.

Mr. HustleKnocker said...

Granted Tom Joyner is really only qulaified to speak for himself and his fans, and even then only up to a point. And granted he has an agenda which is to promote the viability of Reach Media (his company) to potential marketing partners.

But the sad truth is mainstream marketers are so clueless and so busy marginalizing and ignoring and filtering everyone else through their own myopic lenses that someone like Tom Joyner or Jesse Jackson or insert-a-black-person-that-whites-are-comfortable-with-for-all-the-wrong-reasons are the only ones they'll listen to.

Things are changing, but slowly, too slowly.

Mr. HustleKnocker said...

By the way, I have done several rap tracks, written an R&B song, done bunches of "spoken word" tracks to boot. All because the client, who was always white, wanted something "authentic".

Thanks to authenticity, I've also been suckered into doing the following:

a Cookout spot (for Kool-aid... youve probably seen it.)

a DJ spot...

several "credit to their race/mainstream-friendly" spots during, surprise, surprise, Black History Month. Those are my fave... You sit in a room with a client who's moved to the surburbs to get away from anyone who looks like you only to brag about which one of you they wish they could do a commercial with.

I could go on, but i just thought your little list was hilarious and rang way too true for me.

oh, did i mention the black girls jumping rope? i've done one of those too.