Wednesday, May 31, 2023

16271: Clichéd Concepts Are Patronizing Too.


What happens when a White advertising agency tackles a brief best suited for a non-White advertising agency? In this case, it started when a former resident minority of the White ad shop hatched the concept. Yet the final production feels contrived at best and patronizing at least—leveraging the clichéd “[Fill-in-the-blank-minorities] are Americans too.” Just as “Black History is American History” reruns repeatedly during February, it looks like “Asian Americans Are Americans Too” is the motto for May.


To White advertising agencies heralding such work as breakthrough, please consider the following:


• Just because you’ve personally never done it doesn’t mean it’s never been done.


• If [Fill-in-the-blank-minorities] are Americans too, why are they so underrepresented in the American advertising industry?


Tuesday, May 30, 2023

16270: Delayed WTF 55—Mad Men On Memorial Day.

MultiCultClassics is often occupied with real work. As a result, a handful of events occur without the expected blog commentary. This limited series—Delayed WTF—seeks to make belated amends for the absence of malice.


The 2023 Memorial Day post inspired additional thinking.


In the AMC series Mad Men, lead character Don Draper was a military veteran. Apparently, the man’s real name was Dick Whitman, who served in the Korean War. When a comrade—Lt. Don Draper—was killed in an explosion, Whitman swapped dog tags and assumed Draper’s identity in order to desert the conflict. Hell, he even accepted an undeserved medal.


This is symbolically reflective of contemporary Mad Men who have found the DE&I battle too much to handle—abandoning their duties and pledges for justice in deliberately deceptive style. And many are deserting after receiving undeserved accolades including ADCOLOR® Awards.


In short, most Mad Men are cowardly, opportunistic, and racist Dicks.


16269: DE&I = Disappointing, Evasive & Insincere.


LinkedIn News reported that workers are nonplussed by DE&I initiatives—which is roughly the equivalent of declaring that water is wet. Additional shockers included employees believe that companies are failing to meet commitments and heat shields are not receiving enough crumbs.


Most outrageous is the story was inspired by an Edelman report on business and social justice—which is roughly the equivalent of pot calling kettle non-Black. That is, it’s performative PR from self-proclaimed masters of promotional propaganda. Did Edelman simply poll its own employees for the DE&I-damning data?


Can’t help but wonder how the figures compare to the racist reality in Adland.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

16267: New York Festivals Continue To Lower The Bar.


New York Festivals Advertising Awards perpetuates the peculiar paradox of advertising award shows being promoted with campaigns that are anything but award-winning ideas.


These ads perfectly combine mediocre copywriting with hackneyed art direction.


Bad Concept + Terrible Execution is the equation to avoid, no?


Saturday, May 27, 2023

16266: Clickbait—Armed & Loaded.


Shop at Temu for guns and bazookas.

Friday, May 26, 2023

16265: Diversity Of Faith Or Damnable Divertsity?


Campaign spotlighted a video presentation featuring EssenceMediacom APAC CEO Rupert McPetrie, who stressed the imperative for DEI programs to include diversity of faith. Okay, maybe that makes sense in the Asia-Pacific region. But was McPetrie delivering the performative propaganda with the help of a teleprompter, mouthing a script probably penned by the media company’s recently hired Global Chief People Officer…? EssenceMediacom leadership, incidentally, seems to reflect a religious faithfulness to exclusivity. And McPetrie serving as APAC CEO feels like corporate colonialism. Holy shit.


Have a little faith: When it comes to DEI, don’t forget about religious diversity


By Staff Writer


In an age where people are encouraged to be their full and authentic selves at work, diversity of faith can — and should — play a key role in your company’s DEI programme.


It’s become a common refrain in the corporate world that employees should “bring their whole selves to work,” one adopted eagerly by companies looking to telegraph their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. But what does that really mean beyond banner causes like gender, sexual orientation, and mental health?


Lesser-discussed areas of diversity such as socioeconomic background, neurotypicality, and faith are all deeply intertwined with how we form our individual identities, yet appear to be low-priority topics in many corporations’ otherwise-robust DEI programmes.


For Rupert McPetrie, APAC CEO at EssenceMediacom, the sheer cultural and religious diversity of Asia Pacific necessitates including faith as an element of DEI. “The diversity of markets and cultures in Asia Pacific means that diversity of faith is there for all of us to see,” he said. “For me, therefore, faith — and recognising that breadth of faith — becomes an integral part of any approach to diversity, equity and inclusion.”


The state of faith in the workplace


According to the 2022 Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (REDI) Index, only 40% of Fortune 500 companies mention, refer to, or illustrate religion on their main diversity landing page, compared to over 90% which mention racial diversity. Meanwhile, only 7.4% publicly report having faith-oriented employee resource groups (ERGs).


There is a multitude of reasons why this may be. As a historically “sensitive” topic — to say the least — discussion of religion can be a cause of tension if handled improperly. But that core position it has in people’s identities and the passion it inspires is also why forward-thinking companies looking to create people-centric workplaces can no longer afford to overlook faith in their DEI efforts.


At EssenceMediacom, each member of the senior leadership team takes ownership and accountability for a specific element of DEI. McPetrie, who acts as the agency’s faith diversity lead, acknowledges that despite faith being a key pillar of the agency’s DEI initiatives, that isn’t the norm.


As he puts it, “I think it’s quite widely known that diversity of faith isn’t always consistently considered within companies’ DEI initiatives. There’s quite a lot of commentary around faith being almost the forgotten element of DEI agendas and strategies. For us, it’s an integral part of our strategy.”


“When we genuinely commit, as a business, to creating and sustaining an environment where people are free and comfortable to bring their whole selves to work, we want to be representative of the communities that we serve,” he continued.


The business case for religious diversity


Time and time again, studies have shown that diversity isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also good for a business’ bottom line, staff morale, and attractiveness to prospective talent. Much has been said about the power that employees now hold post-Great Resignation; how the onus is now on businesses, not workers, to prove their competitive edge.


When it comes to the role diversity plays in recruitment and employee satisfaction, McPetrie observed that today’s candidates “can establish quite quickly” through talking to people in the market or doing their own research “whether a company is walking the talk on DEI or if it’s just a bit of an afterthought.” As a result, he believes there to be “almost a requirement” for businesses to be clear on their intent within DEI, because “candidates will expect to have inclusivity at the heart of hiring, growth, and development.”


And that transparency pays off. “The more diverse thinking we can bring into the agency to explore or debate a client brief, how we would land a message in the most relevant way to the most relevant audience, in the most relevant environment, the better our output,” said McPetrie.


Embedding faith inclusivity in the workplace


When it comes to actually embedding faith inclusivity within the workplace, simple and actionable initiatives such as respecting religious attire, holidays, festivals, and dietary requirements within global markets all go a long way towards fostering a more empathetic and welcoming working environment.


Beyond that, however, McPetrie emphasised the importance of infusing that respect throughout the organisation. “Particularly for businesses like ours which have a lot of mobility, it’s about having the flexibility to respect people’s individual beliefs whether they’re working in their home market or in another market where the traditions and festivals may be different.”


For McPetrie, a global mobility programme isn’t just a welcome perk for staff, but part and parcel of EssenceMediacom’s DEI agenda. “Through mobility programmes around our organisation, we see enormous upsides to giving people an opportunity in another market to elicit different perspectives,” he said. “Some of it is a simple sharing of best practices, and some of it is about having a different entry point to a discussion or a debate. The quality of work is better. We see this in new business pitches, we see this in day-to-day client work.”


With such major and far-reaching benefits, some may wonder why faith diversity hasn’t been embraced more by corporations. “I think one of the reasons why faith perhaps has not been included so consistently in corporate DEI initiatives, is that we need to find that balance in doing so,” mused McPetrie.


In embracing faith inclusivity, companies must strike a delicate balance between empowering people while putting strong safeguards and boundaries in place so as not to disenfranchise others or create tension. McPetrie describes education as the “most critical element” in EssenceMediacom’s diversity efforts, and what allows the agency to be better equipped to understand “when and how an employee can best thrive in a role.”


At the end of the day, the choice to build that culture of empathy, education, and flexibility is a simple one for McPetrie. “I don’t want to oversimplify it, but it’s the right thing to do for our people,” he said. “It’s also the right thing to do for our business, and ultimately, it’s the right thing to do for our clients and our community. There are a lot of direct benefits, but there are also much broader benefits for us as a business and as a society.”

Thursday, May 25, 2023

16264: For Black Creators, Brands Are Suddenly Quiet As A Mouse—Or White Rat.


Digiday published a report that supplemented earlier Advertising Age content, showing how Black creators have experienced a steep decline in brand partnership and sponsorship opportunities—mirroring the disinterest and indifference for DEI in Adland. Even the faux enthusiasm for Black History Month and Juneteenth has virtually vanished. There’s nary a creator crumb in sight.


Why Black creators say brands are ‘quiet as a mouse’ on Black History Month and Juneteenth this year


By Kimeko McCoy


In 2021 in the shadows of the Black Lives Matter Movement, part-time content creator Amanda Wicks got a flood of brand partnership and sponsorship opportunities in her inbox. This past Black History Month, she found crickets in her email. She expects more of the same next month for Juneteenth.


Now, Wicks is questioning not only her role as a content creator, but the relationship between Black content creators and the brands that were once eager to work with her now that the movement has lost the ad industry’s attention.


“I wouldn’t even call it an ebb and flow [of diversity, equity and inclusion in the industry]. It was just a start, drop,” she said. “That’s really a true testament to the lack of actual commitment which is not a surprise to most of us.”


Wicks is a part-time content creator who has been posting about art, fashion and lifestyle content to her more than 44,200 followers across Instagram, TikTok and YouTube for the last eight years. After the murder of George Floyd, there was a push for businesses to do more to support Black employees, minority-owned agencies, as well as creators. Because of the ripple effects, Wicks’ business picked up. Ultimately, 2021 was Wicks’ highest-grossing year and she was able to pay off a new car. That year, she’d landed deals with Whataburger, Foot Locker and Athena Club, and retained her Tommy Hilfiger partnership — which dated back to 2020. (Wicks did not provide specific figures for 2021 income nor the Tommy Hilfiger partnership.)


But as talk of diversity, equity and inclusion started to lose momentum, so did the brand opportunities for her as a Black creator, she said.


“I wasn’t contacted by anybody for anything until November of 2022,” Wicks said. (Last November, she was accepted into Walmart and Hoorae Media’s Black and Unlimited digital development program.) “And mind you, this is coming off the heels of my most successful content creation year. 2022 came around dead silent.”


Wicks is one of several Black content creators who say brand partnership and sponsorship opportunities have all but dried up after George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter Movement in the summer of 2020. That year, YouTube personality and owner of Big Gold Belt Media Nagier Chambers said he had 25 Black holiday brand sponsorship opportunities. By 2021, that number shrunk to 12, and fell again to just seven last year. Meanwhile, Jahnesta Watson, or @thechefshaiheem on social media, said the four or five partnerships established back in 2021 have also dwindled. (Watson was also a participant in the Black and Unlimited program from Walmart.)


For creators of color, this all points to a faltering relationship between them and the brands that made diversity, equity and inclusion promises three years ago.


“A few years ago, when unfortunately a lot of our Black brothers and sisters were in the news for being murdered, it seems like brands were seeking Black creatives out more and more,” said Nicholas Bailey, a part-time content creator who goes by @nicksaysgo across social media. For Black History Month over the last two to three years, Bailey said he was “flooded by brands for campaigns.” In 2021 and 2022, Bailey said he averaged about four to five Black History Month and Juneteenth campaigns. But this year, the brands were, as he puts it, “quiet as a mouse.”


“It’s not as ‘cool’ to focus on it anymore from a brand side, or even in the eyes of society in general,” he said in an email. “We’re no longer the hot topic and the flavor of the month.”


And it’s not just Black holidays, he said. Brand outreach in general has slowed for Bailey, who added he used to maintain a steady cadence of brand sponsorship and partnership opportunities from skincare and footwear brands looking to work with creators from historically marginalized communities.


Creator growth — for some


The creator economy has been bursting at the seams as of late, seeing exponential growth thanks to the pandemic. In fact, according to Digiday+ research, in the first quarter of 2022, 69% of agency professionals told Digiday that their clients spent at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on influencers. That figure increased to 79% by Q3 of 2022.


But from all directions, it has been an uphill battle for Black content creators and those from other marginalized communities to claim a space in the $15.2 billion U.S. economy. For years, the lack of diversity in brands’ influencer campaigns has been under scrutiny. Recently, creators of color critiqued the Black creator programs rolled out by social media platforms following Floyd’s murder, citing lingering issues from two years ago.


For opportunities that do come about, creators of color say they’re not offered as much as their counterparts, financially. And the numbers prove it. Last year, public relations agency MSL U.S., in partnership with The Influencer League, reported that the racial pay gap between white and BIPOC influencers was 29%. When looking specifically at the gap between white and Black influencers, that figure widens to 35%.


Just earlier this month, Tarte Cosmetics announced that it was in the process of “reviewing” its creator programs to make changes to diversity and inclusion after the beauty brand faced backlash from TikTok creators regarding an influencer trip.


“The thing that separates a lot of the opportunity that Black content creators have and a lot of the opportunity that non-color content creators have is not the talent. It’s the resources,” said Watson. “We have the talent, but we don’t get the resources put behind us.”


From an agency perspective, there’s no doubt that DE&I commitments have somewhat flatlined, said Whitney Headen, CEO of 19th & Park, a creative agency that offers influencer services. However, the question is how much of that flatlining is due to fizzled-out DE&I commitments versus massive layoffs and economic uncertainty or the industry’s unpreparedness to handle what true diversity, equity and inclusion looks like.


“It’s so much more than just finding a Black face in a crowd,” Headen said. “Because there was such an immediate influx of this coming in, people just scrambled to stay and do whatever. So now we go to 2023 and there’s no real tracker of how have you delivered on this.”


Despite promises made three years ago, media companies are mostly still hiring white people. Meanwhile, media agencies are still developing initiatives to quantify progress in diversity.


Today, Wicks said she’s feeling disenfranchised with the experience of being a content creator, doing what she calls mental gymnastics to either stand firm on her rates to be paid as much as her counterparts or take whatever opportunities come her way, ensuring work beyond Black History Month and Juneteenth.


“It just is deeper than just ticking off some diversity and inclusion boxes,” Wicks said. “Literally, people are starving [and financially suffering] because you’re not as committed as you should be. And the lesson has not been learned.”


Julian Cannon contributed to this report.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

16263: Tina Turner (1939-2023).


From The New York Times


Tina Turner, Magnetic Singer of Explosive Power, Is Dead at 83


Hailed in the 1960s for her dynamic performances with her first husband, Ike, she became a sensation as a recording artist, often echoing her personal struggles in her songs.


By William Grimes


Tina Turner, the earthshaking soul singer whose rasping vocals, sexual magnetism and explosive energy made her an unforgettable live performer and one of the most successful recording artists of all time, died on Wednesday at her home in Küsnacht, Switzerland, near Zurich. She was 83.


Her publicist Bernard Doherty announced the death in a statement but did not provide the cause. She had a stroke in recent years and was known to be struggling with a kidney disease and other illnesses.


Ms. Turner embarked on her half-century career in the late 1950s, while still attending high school in East St. Louis, Ill., when she began singing with Ike Turner and his band, the Kings of Rhythm. At first she was only an occasional performer, but she soon became the group’s star attraction — and Mr. Turner’s wife. With her potent, bluesy voice and her frenetic dancing style, she made an instant impression.


Their ensemble, soon renamed the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, became one of the premier touring soul acts in Black venues on the so-called chitlin’ circuit. After the Rolling Stones invited the group to open for them, first on a British tour in 1966 and then on an American tour in 1969, white listeners in both countries began paying attention.


Ms. Turner, who insisted on adding rock songs by the Beatles and the Stones to her repertoire, reached an enormous new audience, giving the Ike and Tina Turner Revue its first Top 10 hit with her version of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Proud Mary” in 1971 and a Grammy Award for best R&B vocal performance by a group.


“In the context of today’s show business, Tina Turner must be the most sensational professional onstage,” Ralph J. Gleason, the influential jazz and pop critic for The San Francisco Chronicle, wrote in a review of a Rolling Stones concert in Oakland in November 1969. “She comes on like a hurricane. She dances and twists and shakes and sings and the impact is instant and total.”


But if the Ike and Tina Turner Revue was a success, the Ike and Tina Turner marriage was not. Mr. Turner was abusive. After she escaped the marriage in her 30s, her career faltered. But her solo album “Private Dancer,” released in 1984, returned her to the spotlight — and lifted her into the pop stratosphere.


Working with younger songwriters, and backed by a smooth, synthesized sound that provided a lustrous wrapping for her raw, urgent vocals, she delivered three mammoth hits: the title song, written by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits; “Better Be Good to Me”; and “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”


Referring to its “innovative fusion of old-fashioned soul singing and new wave synth-pop,” Stephen Holden, in a review for The New York Times, called the album “a landmark not only in the career of the 45-year-old singer, who has been recording since the late 1950s, but in the evolution of pop-soul music itself.”


At the 1985 Grammy Awards, “What’s Love Got to Do With It” won three awards, for record of the year, song of the year and best female pop vocal performance, and “Better Be Good To Me” won for best female rock vocal performance.


The album went on to sell five million copies and ignite a touring career that established Ms. Turner as a worldwide phenomenon. In 1988 she appeared before about 180,000 people at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, breaking a record for the largest paying audience for a solo artist. After her “Twenty Four Seven” tour in 2000 sold more than $100 million in tickets, Guinness World Records announced that she had sold more concert tickets than any other solo performer in history.


‘Well-to-Do Farmers’


Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on Nov. 26, 1939, in Brownsville, Tenn., northeast of Memphis, and spent her earliest years on the Poindexter farm in Nutbush, an unincorporated area nearby, where she sang in the choir of the Spring Hill Baptist Church.


Her father, Floyd, known by his middle name, Richard, worked as the farm’s overseer — “We were well-to-do farmers,” Ms. Turner told Rolling Stone in 1986 — and had a difficult relationship with his wife, Zelma (Currie) Bullock.


Her parents left Anna and her older sister, Alline, with relatives when they went to work at a military installation in Knoxville during World War II. The family reunited after the war, but Zelma left her husband a few years later and Anna lived with her grandmother in Brownsville.


After rejoining her mother in St. Louis, she attended Sumner High School there. She and Alline began frequenting the Manhattan Club in East St. Louis to hear Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm.


“I wanted to get up there and sing sooooo bad,” Ms. Turner recalled in “I, Tina: My Life Story” (1986), written with Kurt Loder. “But that took an entire year.”


One night, during one of the band’s breaks, the drummer, Eugene Washington, handed her the microphone and she began singing the B.B. King song “You Know I Love You,” which Mr. Turner had produced. “When Ike heard me, he said, ‘My God!’” she told People magazine in 1981. “He couldn’t believe that voice coming out of this frail little body.”


In his book “Takin’ Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner” (1999), written with Nigel Cawthorne, Mr. Turner wrote: “I’d be writing songs with Little Richard in mind, but I didn’t have no Little Richard to sing them, so Tina was my Little Richard. Listen closely to Tina and who do you hear? Little Richard singing in the female voice.”


Mr. Turner used her as a backup singer, billed as Little Ann, on his 1958 record “Boxtop.” When Art Lassiter, the group’s lead singer, failed to show up for the recording of “A Fool in Love,” she stepped in. The record was a hit, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart and No. 27 on the pop chart.


Mr. Turner gave his protégée — who by now was also his romantic partner — a new name, Tina, inspired by the television character Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. And he renamed the group the Ike and Tina Turner Revue.


It was a dynamic, disciplined ensemble second only to the James Brown Revue, but until “Proud Mary,” it never achieved significant crossover success. Up to that point it had only one single in the pop Top 20 in the United States, “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” in 1961. The group did generate several hits on the R&B charts, notably “I Idolize You,” “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” and “Tra La La La La,” but most of its income came from a relentless touring schedule.


Ms. Turner’s relationship with Mr. Turner, whom she married in 1962 on a quick trip to Tijuana, Mexico, was turbulent. He was dictatorial, violent at times and, in the 1970s, hopelessly addicted to cocaine. She left him in 1976, with 36 cents and a Mobil gasoline card in her pocket, and divorced him two years later. He died of a cocaine overdose in 2007.


“When I left, I was living a life of death,” she told People in 1981. “I didn’t exist. I didn’t fear him killing me when I left, because I was already dead. When I walked out, I didn’t look back.”


Her marriage provided much of the material for the 1993 film “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” with Angela Basset and Laurence Fishburne in the lead roles. Ms. Turner rerecorded some of her hits, and a new song, “I Don’t Wanna Fight,” for the film, but otherwise declined to participate. “Why would I want to see Ike Turner beat me up again?” she said at the time.


A Second Career


In 1966, the record producer Phil Spector, after hearing the Ike and Tina Turner Revue at the Galaxy Club in Los Angeles, offered $20,000 to produce their next song, on condition that Mr. Turner stay away from the studio. The result, “River Deep, Mountain High,” is often regarded as the high-water mark of Mr. Spector’s patented “wall of sound.” It failed in the United States, barely reaching the Top 100, but it was a big hit in Britain, where it marked the beginning of a second career for Ms. Turner.


“I loved that song,” she wrote in her 1986 memoir. “Because for the first time in my life, it wasn’t just R&B — it had structure, it had a melody.” She added: “I was a singer, and I knew I could do other things; I just never got the opportunity. ‘River Deep’ showed people what I had in me.”


After she walked out on her marriage, encumbered with debt, Ms. Turner struggled to build a solo career, appearing in ill-conceived cabaret acts, before signing with Roger Davies, the manager of Olivia Newton-John, in 1979. Guided by Mr. Davies, she returned to the gritty, hard-rocking style that had made her a crossover star and would propel her through the coming decades as one of the most durable performers on the concert stage.


Her fellow artists took notice. In 1982, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, of the band and production company known as the British Electric Foundation, recruited her to record the Temptations’ 1970 hit “Ball of Confusion” for an album of soul and rock covers backed by synthesizers. Its success led to a second collaboration, a remake of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” A surprise hit in the United States and Britain, it was the turning point that led to “Private Dancer.”


Ms. Turner followed the runaway success of “Private Dancer” with two more hit albums: “Break Every Rule” (1986) and “Foreign Affair” (1989), which contained the hit single “The Best.”


She made an impact onscreen as well. Ten years after she solidified her persona as a rock ’n’ roller with a riveting performance as the Acid Queen in Ken Russell’s film version of “Tommy,” the Who’s rock opera, she drew praise for her performance as Aunty Entity, the iron-fisted ruler of postapocalyptic Bartertown, in “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” in 1985.


That film also provided her with two more hit singles, “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” and “One of the Living,” which was named the best female rock vocal performance at the Grammys in 1986.


In 1991 she and Mr. Turner, in prison at the time for cocaine possession, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. (She was inducted again as a solo artist in 2021.) She received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2005 and a Grammy lifetime achievement award in 2018.


In 1985 she began a relationship with the German music executive Erwin Bach, whom she married in 2013 after moving with him to Küsnacht and becoming a Swiss citizen. He survives her. Ron, her only child with Mr. Turner, died of colon cancer complications in 2022. Another son, Craig, from her relationship with Raymond Hill, the saxophone player for the Kings of Rhythm, died by suicide in 2018. Her sister, Alline Bullock, died in 2010. Ms. Turner raised two children of Mr. Turner’s, Ike Jr. and Michael.


Complete information on her survivors was not immediately available.


After releasing the album “Twenty Four Seven” in 1999, at 60 and touring to promote it, Ms. Turner announced her retirement. It did not last. In 2008, after performing with Beyoncé at the Grammy Awards, she embarked on an international tour marking her 50th year in the music business.


She announced her retirement again a few years later, but she remained active in other ways. In 2018, she published her second memoir, “My Love Story.”


She and Mr. Bach were executive producers of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” a stage show based on her life and incorporating many of her hits, which opened in London in 2018 and in Hamburg and on Broadway in 2019; Ms. Turner worked with the show’s choreographer and shared memories with its writers.


While reviews were mixed, the musical earned 12 Tony Award nominations; Adrienne Warren, who starred as Ms. Turner, won the award for best actress in a leading role. “In a performance that is part possession, part workout and part wig,” Jesse Green wrote in a review for The Times, “Adrienne Warren rocks the rafters and dissolves your doubts about anyone daring to step into the diva’s high heels.”


The show closed after four months because of the pandemic lockdown, reopening in October 2021 before closing again a year later and embarking on a U.S. tour.


Through it all, Ms. Turner’s music endured.


“My music doesn’t sound dated; it’s still standing strong,” she told The Daily Mail in 2008. “Like me.”

16262: Big Brands + Black-Owned Media = Broken Promises ÷ Crumbs.


Advertising Age published a lengthy report on a survey intended to show if big brands have met commitments to increase spending with Black-owned media companies.


Wouldn’t it have been easier to simply ask Byron Allen? Instead, Ad Age polled seven Black-owned media companies, collecting a diverse range of fuzzy results.


If big brands were indeed making good on their pledges, they’d be the first to proclaim mission accomplished, no? And Black-owned media companies would surely confirm matters.


Hell, even a Family Feud survey for Why Big Brands Don’t Deliver On Commitments To Black-Owned Media would list these Top 5 Answers:


5. Big Brands Are Liars

4. Hate For Byron Allen

3. Prefer Supporting White Women

2. Content Giving Crumbs

1. Systemic Racism


How McDonald’s, P&G, Coca-Cola, GM And Other Big Brands Are Spending On Black-Owned Media


Ad Age survey shows results are mixed, and interviews reveal battle lines over shift to programmatic


By Jack Neff, Parker Herren and Jeanine Poggi


Since 2020, dozens of advertisers have pledged to increase spending with Black-owned media. And despite fears that those commitments would be forgotten by now, a survey of Black-owned media companies from Ad Age tells a different story, though performance varies widely by company and brand.


Spending with Black-owned media is on the rise, up in 2022 vs. 2021, for most big brands and agencies, according to a survey of seven Black-owned media companies that provided data in exchange for anonymity. The data shows that many of the brands that have made public commitments—including Target, Walmart, Procter & Gamble Co., Coca-Cola Co., General Motors and McDonald’s—have made marked progress, though the degree to which that’s happening is subject to some debate among media owners.


Overall, Ad Age received responses from seven Black-owned media companies with data from spending by their biggest brands and agency customers. Not all of the media companies reported dollar figures by brand or agency. And, in some cases, the data was limited to directional indicators, so the results cannot be taken as exact spending by brands or representative of the entire marketplace. But in general, all respondents showed more brands or agencies increasing rather than decreasing spending, with some reporting dramatic increases in 2022, albeit off low bases.


The data from the Ad Age survey and other sources suggest marketer commitment to spending on Black-owned media, which was sparked by the unrest following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, continues to grow. Such measurement is complicated in part by the fact that some marketers, such as Verizon and Procter & Gamble, have focused on programmatic buying of Black-owned media where possible, while some Black-owned publishers have resisted programmatic deals and tried to preserve their direct relationships with agencies and brands. This has ignited a debate as to whether programmatic is a move toward efficiency and more spending or just a way to cut costs.


Progress broadly


Across a wider swath of brands, spending on Black-owned media has been rising at a healthy clip, according to a recent study out of the Association of National Advertisers’ Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing based on data from Standard Media Index.


SMI, which compiles actual spending data from holding companies and leading independent media agencies, found spending with Black-owned media companies nearly tripled since 2020 to $880 million. And spending on Black-owned media made up 62% of the spending on diverse-owned media in 2022, even though Black-owned companies only made up 47% of diverse-owned outlets.


Overall, spending on diverse-owned media rose at an 80% annual rate from 2020 to 2022, from $400 million to $1.4 billion, according to the AIMM/SMI data. It rose well ahead of media spending overall, up at only a 9% annual pace on average across the two years. Even as overall SMI-measured spending was nearly flat in 2022, spending on diverse-owned media rose by more than 50%.


Despite that growth, spending on all diverse-owned media made up only 1.85% of total spending measured by SMI in 2022, and spending on Black-owned media comprised only 1.16%. But those shares were each more than double what they were in 2020.


For some big brands, however, public spending commitments are double or more than broad market averages. Here is how some of the biggest brand marketers that made high-profile pledges are performing.




Target appears to have had the most aggressive goal for spending with Black-owned media companies last year, aiming to spend at least 5% of its media budget with them by 2022. The retailer also stands out as having the highest spending total among respondents to the Ad Age survey that reported dollar spending, hiking spending with one marketer alone by $9.4 million in 2022.


Target had measured media spending of $1.5 billion last year, per Vivvix supplemented with digital spending data from Pathmatics. So 5% would come in at $75 million overall in 2022 by that accounting. Without citing spending numbers, a Target spokeswoman said the retailer exceeded its 2022 goal.


“Our commitment to supporting Black-owned media companies allows us to reach our guests through platforms that are hyper-relevant to them and to be a catalyst for change in the media industry,” she said. “We remain committed to our industry-leading pledge to spend 5% of our annual media budget with Black-owned media companies.”


General Motors


General Motors came under fire in 2021 for what several Black-owned media leaders said was the refusal by its CEO to meet with them and for allocating less than 0.5% of its ad spend to Black-owned media. Shortly after, the automaker announced it would spend 2% of its ad dollars on Black-owned media in 2021 and 4% in 2022, with the goal of reaching 8% by 2025.


At one major media group, GM upped its spend by 125% in 2022 to just under $5 million and invested in the development of series, as well as impact-driven IP. It also bought into at least one Black-owned media brand for the first time in 2022.


“There is nothing but check boxes here for us with GM,” the leader of a media company who notes GM as a new advertiser said. For this brand, GM also has paid within 30 days, while most of its other advertisers have payment terms that stretch between 90 to 120 days.


Overall, GM spent nearly $1.4 billion on media last year, as estimated by Vivvix and Pathmatics, which would indicate spending of around $56 million overall with Black-owned media based on its 4% target.


Still, there are some issues with working with GM, according to survey respondents.


“At a national level doing what they are doing, but at the dealer level they don’t control all the money,” one Black-owned media leader said.


Another expressed a bottleneck with getting deals done. “We get a lot of interest from them in terms of participating in Black media day, we submit an RFP and then they come back with feedback and we tweak it and we think we are getting to the finish line, then there are delays in approvals and weeks go by and then we are told we were not selected. This has happened for the past two years. This will be the third year, and we will most likely opt out until we get engaged with directly.”


A GM spokeswoman said the automaker has exceeded its investment goal for Black-owned media of 2% in 2021 and 4% in 2022 on the way to reaching a goal of 8% by 2025. GM also exceeded its goal last year of spending 10% of its annual media budget on diverse-owned and targeted media in 2022, she said, adding that it increased investment with Hispanic, Asian, LGBTQ+ and female-owned companies.




Facing two lawsuits from Allen Media Group alleging racial discrimination in its media buying, McDonald’s has been under arguably the most intense scrutiny of any advertiser over its spending on Black-owned media.


Media mogul Byron Allen is seeking $100 million plus punitive damages in the most recent lawsuit filed earlier this month for what he claims is a violation of California’s anti-fraud law against making false promises. This comes on top of another lawsuit Allen made against McDonald’s, in which he claims the company’s ad practices amount to “racial stereotyping.”


The world‘s largest restaurant company has strongly denied all of Allen’s allegations, and the lawsuits remain pending. “Byron Allen files baseless lawsuits as part of a public smear campaign against our company to try to line his pockets,” McDonald’s said in a statement. “We will not be coerced by these ‘in terrorem’ tactics and will defend ourselves vigorously.”


Indeed, McDonald’s spent nothing with Allen’s The Weather Channel in 2021 or 2022, per Vivvix.


But the company increased its spend more than 70% to $3.4 million on one Black-owned channel and funded additional programs. And another survey participant also noted a 70% increase in McDonald’s ad spend, but declined to provide a revenue figure. That media company noted that McDonald’s helped to build out infrastructure and IP and its payment terms were 45 days, lower than every other advertiser at the company.


“What is unique for us, McDonald’s didn’t just invest in terms of the dollars being spent, but looking at how they can make us bigger and better,” the executive said. “We have a monthly meeting with some of the McDonald’s team, a quarterly meeting with a larger group, and I meet personally with Tariq [Hassan, chief marketing and customer experience officer] every six months. We appreciate that process and level of access.”


One of McDonald’s challenges, similar to General Motors, is the divide between the national budget (controlled by Hassan) and the local budget driven by franchisees.


“Any time McDonald’s is making pledges, it’s at a national level,” one survey respondent said. “They surpassed goals, made stretch targets and are hitting those.”


McDonald’s did decrease spending with one survey participant, but it is unclear how much revenue was pulled out.


In May 2021, McDonald’s promised to more than double its U.S. investment in diverse-owned media companies, production shops and content creators by 2024. It also said during that period it would increase its U.S. advertising spending with platforms owned by Black, Hispanic, Asian American, female and LGBTQ people from 4% to 10%. When it comes to specifically Black-owned media it pledged to increase its spend from 2% to 5% by 2024.


McDonald’s is confident enough in progress toward the 2021 targets that it increased its “systemwide investment ambition with diverse-owned media to 15% by the end of 2024,” a spokeswoman said. “As part of this, we are on track to meet or exceed our commitment of 5% of total Black-owned marketing investments by 2024.” The company plans to update progress toward its goal in a July report.


Procter & Gamble


P&G has never made a firm dollar or percent-of-spending commitment on Black-owned media, but Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard has repeatedly said, as he did in a 2021 speech to the ANA Masters of Marketing conference, that he wants the company to be “the number one spender among Black-owned media.” Pritchard also said P&G had doubled spending at that point from the prior two years, “and our aspiration is to double again, and then double again.”


But survey respondents note P&G isn’t close to leadership levels of spending among brand marketers. P&G did increase spending with four of five Black-owned companies that broke out data, but the increase was only 5% with one of those. And P&G ranked around the middle of the pack in spending among companies that broke out dollar figures.


“For how much Marc Pritchard gets credit for [DE&I] they don’t spend much with us,” one survey respondent said. “It’s their aspiration is to be the No. 1 spender in Black-owned media and in order to do that they would need to give us a lot more money. They are over hyped; the amount of credit they get in the market you would think they are our No. 1 advertisers, but they aren’t, they are like 30th.”


That does not, however, tell the whole story. The company did rank No. 4 among spenders on Allen’s TWC last year, hiking spending 42% to $5.4 million, per Vivvix. P&G has also heavily invested in programmatic buying of Black-owned media, including through Black-owned Reset Digital, which may not show up in the Ad Age survey and covers a much broader group of media companies.


Damon Jones, chief communications officer of P&G, didn’t confirm the Vivvix data on TWC, but noted that the company also increasingly spends on other Allen properties in ways that don’t show up in measured media, including event sponsorships, TheGrio Awards and the company’s other cable and digital networks. Much of P&G’s efforts also have included co-developing content with Black creators, he said.


“Our aspiration has been to double our spending, which we’ve done over the past couple of years, which we feel very good about achieving,” Jones said.


One challenge has been finding sufficient capacity in the industry, he said, so P&G has been looking beyond the biggest Black-owned companies.


“There’s a long tail of companies where we’ve been spending a significant amount of time, effort and energy to bring them into the ecosystem, give them exposure to the opportunities with P&G, and get them plugged into programmatic systems that will allow advertising to flow on different levels,” Jones said. Just recently, he said, P&G hosted brand briefing days with 75 diverse publishers in Cincinnati.


P&G’s spending on radio also surged 48% last year to $254 million, per Vivvix, out of an overall outlay of $3.2 billion (also including Pathmatics digital spending data). While neither P&G nor Vivvix broke out spending on Black-owned radio stations, that’s one part of the “long tail” where the company’s spending clearly has grown. ANA’s AIMM database shows 31% of Black-owned media companies are in radio.


People familiar with the matter said some of the bigger Black-owned media companies have resisted selling inventory programmatically to P&G or others, preferring to preserve their direct relationships with advertisers.


“Different people are in different places,” Jones said. “In order to get plugged into those programmatic systems, we recognize there are barriers, investment required and knowledge and capability needed. We’re resisting a one size fits all approach. There are some people for whom programmatic is the number one way, and so we’re investing to help build their capacity and the infrastructure to get there. But not everything is programmatic.”


Another survey respondent said, “I think the team is great and has great intentions,” but that so far P&G spending has been minimal—only around $200,000, despite the media company taking steps to integrate with sell-side platform Magnite. While this executive has heard more commitments could be coming, it hasn’t happened yet. Another person familiar with the matter said P&G has a large group of brands looking to expand buying with Black-owned media this year.




Verizon is one company for which public pronouncements about spending more on Black-owned media are at odds with the results of the Ad Age survey. But the devil is likely in the programmatic details, where much of the company’s spending on Black-owned media appears to have shifted.


Speaking at last year’s ANA conference, Verizon's Senior VP Tony Wells said: “Since the murder of George Floyd, thousands of brands have committed billions of dollars” to Black and diverse-owned media. “The question,” he said, “is are we as committed now as we were?”


Based on the Ad Age survey data for Verizon, four out of five respondents that broke out spending by brand reported Verizon reduced its spending in 2022, and in some cases completely eliminated its investments. One media company did report Verizon increased spending and inked a long-term deal, but did not provide additional details.


Wells, however, did note in that same speech a number of efforts that included a deal with Reset Digital to use its Neuroprogrammatic Advertising platform to find diverse audiences that it’s been missing with prior targeting efforts. At least some, and possibly all, of the spending Verizon had been doing directly with media companies, could have moved to Reset and other programmatic channels to buy from Black-owned companies.


But Verizon’s strategy has left executives of some Black-owned media companies disappointed and angry.


“Programmatic is a race to the bottom,” said one. “We are seeing some brands trying to find an easy button and cheapen what is happening in the Black-owned ecosystem. People are going to stop buying directly and try to spend more in programmatic. They are saying it is to control for frequency, planning and duplication, but it is all about pricing.”


One agency executive said he’s also encountered resistance from some Black media owners to move to programmatic. “But they need to be comfortable with the fact that at least 30% of an agency's spend is happening through programmatic,” he said. “We have some partners that said no to programmatic, and we respect their decision. … But I want to be clear that they’re losing here. They’re leaving some money on the table that somebody else is going to take.”


Another survey respondent said their company was part of Verizon’s Black media days twice but never heard back, including on a more recent RFP.


Another Black-owned media executive said Verizon made a commitment and announced a multi-year deal, “then they started pulling everything. We fought hard and ultimately they still decided to do it. It left a bad taste in my mouth. They said they were having budget cuts. There is not enough Black-owned local inventory. No way they were able to invest as much as they did in national.”


Verizon pledged in April 2021to spend 2% of its ad budget on Black-owned media. In January 2022, the company reported it was “on track to exceed” the $25 million it previously committed to spend with Black-owned media companies in 2021.


“Today we work with 20-plus Black-owned and operated media partners, from well-known traditional platforms to digital and emerging platforms,” said Rafael Rivero, senior VP, media and marketing effectiveness, Verizon. “These partnerships help us achieve our business objectives, and in many cases help our partners scale.”


Rivero added that Verizon exceeded its commitment to Black-owned media in 2021 and increased that spending by 20% in 2022.




In June 2021, Coca-Cola announced it would double its media spend with minority-owned companies over the next three years, with no less than 8% of its yearly budget directed to Black, Hispanic and Asian-owned platforms and their partners by 2024.


All five Black-owned media companies that provided brand-specific data reported Coca-Cola increased spending last year, one noting it hiked spending by $1 million and another citing a 160% spending increase.


But survey respondents reported mixed results since Coca-Cola moved its media account from Interpublic to WPP’s EssenceMediacom last year. One executive said Mediacom reached out proactively during the transition. But another said the transition varied according to property.


“I love Coca-Cola,” said one survey respondent. “They were one of our best brands.” But after it moved to WPP last year, he said, “we got zero dollars.”


As a matter of policy, Coca-Cola doesn’t share specific numbers around media spending, a spokesman said, but added that it is “on track to meet our commitment of having our Black, Hispanic and Asian American and Pacific Islander-owned media companies account for 8% of our total annual media budget in North America by 2024.”


This, the spokesman added, includes spending with Ebony and Essence, on things such as the Essence Festival of Culture that Coca-Cola will be sponsoring for the 27th year this summer and the Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Presenting Sponsorship of the 2023 Ebony Power 100.




In Ad Age’s survey, three of five Black-owned companies that reported spending at the brand level said Walmart increased spending and a fourth reported a decrease. Among companies reporting dollar figures, Walmart’s spending rose $1.6 million with one last year, while another reported a 150% increase.


Walmart in May 2021 pledged to spend 2% of its media with Black-owned companies in fiscal 2022 and 4% in fiscal 2023, and hit both of those targets, according to a spokeswoman (both fiscal years ended Jan. 31). Dollar figures weren’t disclosed, but Walmart spent an estimated $2.5 billion on media as measured by Vivvix and Pathmatics in calendar 2022, up about 20% from the prior year. It’s less aggressive than Target has been, but also off of a bigger spending pool.


Results were very mixed by company. One reported that it lost all its Walmart spending; Another saw a nearly fourfold increase. One survey respondent described Walmart as “dedicated and committed” and issuing many RFPs. “We don’t win all of them,” the respondent said. “But we seem to always be included.”


One agency executive, who spoke on background, said the agency was trying to ensure budgets for Black-owned media stay strong by pushing clients to establish dedicated budgets and include at least one minority company on every RFP. Clients who were already “leaning in” continue to do so, while clients who haven’t “are slowly joining as well,” the executive said.


But a worrisome trend is with clients trying to shrink the number of partners they work with, the executive said. “There’s always this mentality of fewer, bigger, better. I think in the minority space, that’s not always the case, because you want to see more opportunity growth.”