UPDATED: In his capacity as founder of the Revolt network, Sean “Diddy” Combs slammed General Motors for disrespecting Black-owned media brands in an open letter published Thursday, calling for more financial support in advertising and other spending.
The move follows the placement of a full-page ad in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press, in which the leaders of Black-owned media companies — including Byron Allen and Ice Cube — accused GM CEO Mary Barra of racism for refusing to meet with them to discuss advertising opportunities. According to the Detroit Free Press, the ad, which was signed by the heads of seven Black-owned media companies, alleges that Barra refused to meet with them “consistently, over time and after multiple requests.” They also asked for an hour-long Zoom meeting with Barra, or her resignation.
In response on Thursday, GM pledged to increase its advertising with Black-owned businesses significantly — the company’s full response follows Combs’ below — and noted that, contrary to Combs’ statement, it spends “significantly less $3 billion in advertising per year,” although it declined to give a figure. It also has agreed to a series of meetings with Black-owned media over the next few weeks to discuss its plans and commitments going forward.
Combs references that ad in his letter, which notes that “While REVOLT does receive advertising revenue from GM, our relationship is not an example of success. Instead, REVOLT, just like other Black-owned media companies, fights for crumbs while GM makes billions of dollars every year from the Black community. Exposing GM’s historic refusal to fairly invest in Black-owned media is not an assassination of character, it’s exposing the way GM and many other advertisers have always treated us.”
The letter appears below in full.
WE DEMAND MORE: A LETTER FROM SEAN COMBS
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu
The same feet these companies use to stand with us in solidarity are the same feet they use to stand on our necks.
When confronted by the leaders of several Black-owned media companies, General Motors (GM) listed my network, REVOLT, as an example of the Black-owned media it supports. While REVOLT does receive advertising revenue from GM, our relationship is not an example of success. Instead, REVOLT, just like other Black-owned media companies, fights for crumbs while GM makes billions of dollars every year from the Black community. Exposing GM’s historic refusal to fairly invest in Black-owned media is not an assassination of character, it’s exposing the way GM and many other advertisers have always treated us. No longer can Corporate America manipulate our community into believing that incremental progress is acceptable action.
Corporations like General Motors have exploited our culture, undermined our power, and excluded Black entrepreneurs from participating in the value created by Black consumers. In 2019, brands spent $239 billion on advertising. Less than 1% of that was invested in Black-owned media companies. Out of the roughly $3 billion General Motors spent on advertising, we estimate only $10 million was invested in Black-owned media. Only $10 million out of $3 billion! Like the rest of corporate America, General Motors is telling us to sit down, shut up and be happy with what we get.
It’s disrespectful that Black-owned media companies only represent 1% of the total advertising market. It’s disrespectful that distributors refuse to carry Black-owned media brands in an era where our impact and influence is undeniable. It’s disrespectful that the same community that represents 14% of the population and spends over $1.4 trillion annually is still the most economically undervalued and underserved at every level. To repeat, $1.4 TRILLION ANNUALLY! The Almighty Black Dollar!
We demand that Corporate America reinvest an equitable percentage of what you take from our community back into our community. If the Black community represents 15% of your revenue, Black-owned media should receive at least 15% of the advertising spend. The same way you understand the power of our dollars, we understand our power to take them away from any corporation that doesn’t give us the economic inclusion we deserve. We are prepared to weaponize our dollars.
If you love us, pay us! Not a token investment. Not a charity check or donation.
The time is now! Radical change is the only option. You’re either with us or you are on the other side.
GM’s Response regarding Support For Black-Owned Media Organizations
As part of our aspiration to become the most inclusive company in the world, General Motors is committed to partnering with minority-owned media organizations, including Black-owned media companies. In 2021, for example, we doubled our spend with Black-owned media groups to 2%. We will increase our spend with this important segment to 4% in 2022, and will continue to grow our spend thereafter with a target of 8% by 2025. Black-owned media are a vital component of our marketing mix, and we evaluate our spend for media partners through several core metrics, including transparency, innovation, ad quality, audience delivery and brand safety.
With the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM), we pledged our commitment to equality, inclusion, and systemic change in advertising. Each year GM sponsors content that helps us to deliver on our pledge. Some examples include:
• We partnered with the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) on an urban black radio initiative to launch a new audio series called “More Than That” with Gia Peppers. “More Than That” is a journey across America with the voices of Black Excellence, celebrating conversations on wellness, entertainment, and wealth.
• We launched “Real Talk Real Change” in partnership with Ozy, a diverse, global, and forward-looking media company focused on “the New and the Next.”
• We have a longstanding partnership with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) to provide access to relevant news and thought leadership to 20 million readers weekly. The NNPA is a trade association of more than 200 African American-owned community newspapers from around the United States and is the largest and most influential Black-owned media resource in America.
• We partner with Free the Work, an organization that ensures our media and advertising partners hire directors and creators from underrepresented backgrounds.
Our commitment goes beyond advertising and sponsorship revenue. We want to build long-standing partnerships with Black-owned and diverse media companies in a transparent and meaningful way. This includes investments in business enablers such as customized deal structures and facilitating access to measurement and mentorship tools, which are often a barrier for small and emerging businesses. In addition, in May of 2021 we will launch our Diverse Owned Media Upfront. The process, which is a dedicated briefing to diverse media owners that encourages partners and potential partners to submit business proposals, will be accredited by a third-party to ensure fairness and transparency. As the company with the largest diversity media spend in our industry, we are committed to evaluating our approach on a regular basis to ensure we maintain our leadership position.