Interpublic’s Mediabrands Vows to Raise Ad Budgets for Black-Owned Media by 2023

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Big advertisers like General Motors and Target say they intend to pay more attention to Black-owned media outlets. Now Interpublic Group, one of the nation’s biggest advertising companies, intends to follow suit.

Interpublic’s large Mediabrands media-buying unit said Friday it expected to spend “a minimum of 5%” of its clients’ ad budgets in Black-owned media by 2023, the latest in a series of efforts by big advertisers and Madison Avenue agencies to correct decades of disparity between what is spent in traditional mainstream media and what is allocated for media outlets owned by entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds. The move follows a recent “upfront” meeting Mediabrands organized to bring owners of Black-owned outlets like Urban One and Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios together with some of its ad clients, which include Aetna/CVS, American Express, Johnson & Johnson and BMW.

“The time is past due to embrace the opportunities to connect with influential audiences through Black-owned media,” said Daryl Lee, Mediabrands’ global CEO.  “Innovation and growth are flourishing across Black-owned media outlets, providing brands with deeply authentic ways to reach diverse audiences in a supportive, meaningful manner. We are excited to be adding our voice to a growing industry conversation in support of greater diversity and equity in media spend.”

In recent weeks, General Motors, Target, Hyundai and others have expressed new interest in widening the work they do with advertising agencies and media outlets owned by people of color. Some of it is spurred by the national reckoning over last year’s killing of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police. And some of it has come under pressure. A group of  Black entrepreneurs took out full-page newspaper ads in The Wall Street Journal and The Detroit Free Press asking why GM didn’t spend more money in outlets owned by Black executives. GM has pledged to raise its allocation of ad dollars to Black-owned outlets to 8% by 2025.

Executives from the Black-owned outlets have in recent weeks expressed hope that big advertisers will follow up on their promises. But they are also wary. Some of the entrepreneurs have heard these sorts of promises in the past, yet noticed that concrete steps are often hard to make after the publicity from the announcements fades.

Getting more ad dollars can be tough for entrepreneurs of color. Big advertisers increasingly reserve the bulk of their ad spend for big, traditional outlets like ViacomCBS, Disney or NBCUniversal, where they can leverage millions of dollars in advertising across many different outlets, each of which aims to reach a different consumer niche. And big advertisers often protest that the smaller outlets don’t reach the masses of audiences they need to make ad spending efficient.

But these are days when technology is spurring big marketers to refine their pitches for smaller crowds — say, expectant mothers, or first-time car buyers. With that in mind, some of the entrepreneurs note, there’s little room for using size as a means of deflection.

Mediabrands said recent research showed that the U.S. Black consumer base stands at around 48 million people,  with an average age of 32  representing $1.4 trillion in buying power. “We have been working with our clients to match client business goals with the authentic reach and engagement of these properties,” said Dani Benowitz, president, U.S. of Magna, a media-research unit that is part of  Mediabrands, in a statement.  “We are confident that embracing a new framework for equity investment in media will deliver tangible returns for our clients and provide opportunities to redefine a media ecosystem where all audiences feel welcomed and included.”