Dogfight On Madison Avenue

Advertising firms zero in on new niches while they battle mainstream firms for accounts

Service and the Department of Housing and Urban Development — is one of the top 20 advertisers in the country.

"Black advertisers now have a voice they’ve never had before," notes AAF’s Gardner, who is the coordinator of the association’s task force. "I don’t think anyone is looking for a mandate. Instead, it’s a way to educate CEOs and decision-makers about the problems, and make them look at the data and make a consistent effort to consider all consumers."

At the AAF’s CEO roundtable, which took place in February, a recurring issue was the Internet and its great marketing potential, which has yet to be quantified or significantly tapped by African Americans. "Anything with technology is a watchword. Advertising on the Internet was a $2 billion industry last year and is growing dramatically," says Drake. "Any agency that isn’t placing advertising on the Internet now, better get on it soon." It’s an arena where returns are still difficult to quantify, but it’s showing increased use by African American consumers as e-commerce continues to make headway.

Diversifying services is also another way black agencies are looking to thrive. New York-based Chisholm-Mingo Group (No. 4 on the be advertising agencies list, with $78 million in billings), which shares Texaco’s African American targeted business with Uniworld, is repositioning itself and taking on more "crisis management" advertising, as evidenced by its success with the Denny’s account. It also formed a separate public relations and marketing communications division, and has become a leader in minority corporate advertising.

"This is beyond affirmative action or EEOC, as marketers see that they can’t just throw an image here or there," says Sam Chisholm, chairman and CEO. "They want a fresh, new look and we are changing the playing field." With new clients such as Metropolitan Life, Time Warner and Year 2000 Census, Chisholm says that 1998 has been his best year yet.

Television and film production has become an option, with Al Anderson of Anderson Communications in Atlanta (No. 12 on the be advertising agencies list with $16.3 million in billings) setting his sights on sports programming. Uniworld is delving deeper into entertainment with its recently revamped television news show, America’s Black Forum, and last year’s launch of Uniworld Films, headed by Jeff Friday, to specialize in film marketing and related promotional events.

Another option for black agencies is to join forces with each other. "I think there’s a lot of territory uncovered," says Coleman. "If a small agency wants to be attractive to a general market agency, they should consider strategic alliances with other small black agencies and build critical mass. It will open the door to greater opportunity and bring about a sense of unity."

We canvassed the standard Directory of Advertising Agencies, combed industry publications and made inquires in the field to compile a list of full-service advertising agencies in the U.S. that are 51% black owned. Surveys

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