Massacre On Madison Avenue

In the toughest year everfor advertising firms, African American agencies struggled to hold on to business and meet the bottom line

addition, the agency picked up the Courvoisier business and dropped Kmart after five years. Kmart, currently in bankruptcy, was rumored to have owed GlobalHue more than $3 million. GlobalHue will continue to expand in the soft drink, fast food, and computer categories.

Burrell Communications helped bring to life Crest Rejuvenating Effects ads featuring actress-singer Vanessa L. Williams. The Chisholm-Mingo Group Inc. (No. 5 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $100 million in billings) recently won the Tropical Rhythms fruit drinks account of Grace Foods. The Jamaica, West Indies-based company produces more than 10,000 canned foods and beverages. Chisholm-Mingo also acquired Kmart after its separation from GlobalHue.

“Footsteps L.L.C., which also fell off this year’s advertising agencies list, has been hired by HBO to execute an African American branding campaign. The three-year-old agency also has accounts with several healthcare and pharmaceutical firms such as Alcon Labs, Roche, Bayer, and Continuum /St. Lukes Health Partners.

“In our business development we looked for pockets of opportunity and multicultural marketing, and the healthcare arena is underdeveloped and under served,” says Verdia Johnson, president and co-founder.

Pepsi-Cola North America gave Spike DDB (No. 9 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $35 million in billings) its African American business — estimated by AdAge.com to be worth $10 million — after it’s contract with UniWorld Group ended in December. Spike DDB’s Pepsi television ads star actress and singer Beyoncé Knowles of Destiny’s Child.

UniWorld Group had been Pepsi’s agency for four years. In September, Pepsi pulled UniWorld-created spots, featuring rapper Ludacris, after Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly called for viewers to boycott Pepsi because of the rapper’s hard-core lyrics. “Pepsi didn’t trust UniWorld to do what it knows best. Clients are asking, ‘How do we use controversial rap artists, with enormous appeal to young black and white consumers, in a way that won’t make our other consumer segments angry or confused?’ In this case, Pepsi got a case of cold feet,” says Smikle.

Russell Simmons threatened a boycott of Pepsi for applying a double standard by launching commercials featuring foul-mouthed rocker Ozzy Osbourne and family after pulling the Ludacris spots. In February, Pepsi agreed to contribute $5 million to the Ludacris Foundation and to continue working with Simmons’ Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.

General market agency Leo Burnett in Chicago hired Los Angeles-based Muse Cordero Chen & Partners (No. 7 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $70 million in billings) in September to handle the African American segment of its $95 million U.S. Army account after a disagreement with Atlanta-based Images USA over fees paid to subcontractors.

Some agency CEOs advocate that black agencies could come together to work toward some common goal and form an association where we can talk to each other and share ideas. Adds Eugene Morris, chairman of the African American Advertising Committee, which was formed by the American Association of Advertising Agencies in 1999, “It would give our industry a cohesive voice. In the end, we’re all the worse for not doing so.”

Top 15 Billings & Employees 2001 — 2002

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