Now that black is in, are black agencies out?

The African American market surges, but black agencies battle mainstream shops for the opportunity to deliver their message.

Lincoln Navigator, and placed the SUV in an upcoming movie with Cedric The Entertainer. The agency’s Burger King commercials featuring Steve Harvey ranked No. 3 in consumer appeal according to a recent Ad Age/Intermedia Advertising Group Quarterly Ad Recall Report.

Competition Remains Stiff While Accounts Shift
Many corporations still prefer to partner with general-market agencies to deliver hip-hop-infused messages to the masses, while relegating minority-owned agencies to creative help and advertising for ethnic media in efforts to attract multicultural consumers. “Very few companies are comfortable with the reality that African Americans drive a multitude of trends beyond fashion and music in the general-market,” says Greg Head, president of HEADFIRST Market Research in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

However, Robert J. Dale, president and CEO of Chicago-based R.J. Dale Advertising & Public Relations (No. 14 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $26.4 million in billings), notes there are a few companies “redirecting their general-market agencies to partner with African American agencies from the start, rather than developing general campaigns and plugging the black segment into it. That is one trend that is going to change the face of advertising over the next 10 years.”

Williams made news when after a year, she resigned a deal with Bank of America, citing “philosophical differences and disagreement on how to market effectively to the African American community.” Others in a dizzying square dance include Kmart, a onetime client of GlobalHue (No. 1 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $325 million in billings), who sided with Carol H. Williams, and GlobalHue’s acquisition of the Microsoft business once held by UniWorld. Spike DDB (No. 8 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $45 million in billings) picked up the Pepsi account formerly with UniWorld, and Nationwide Insurance Co. changed hands from Burrell (No. 3 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $190 million in billings) to Atlanta-based Matlock Advertising & Public Relations (No. 10 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $38 million in billings). “No company leaves a black agency and goes into a vacuum. Typically, they go directly to another agency,” says Ken Smikle, president of the research firm Target Market News in Chicago. “If they don’t, they give up market share that’s hard to regain.”

Several agencies met challenges. And in the midst of it all, the industry also lost advertising pioneer Vince Cullers, founder of the first black agency, Vince Cullers Advertising.

“It’s been a tough year,” says Don Coleman, president of GlobalHue. The 2003 BE Advertising Agency of the Year saw billings remain the same at $325 million. In addition to Microsoft, GlobalHue acquired the United States Navy recruitment account.

For Samuel Chisholm, chairman and CEO of The Chisholm-Mingo Group, which was founded in 1977, a reduction in billings would have been a welcome challenge. Poor management and the company’s inability to provide a broad range of services while growing it’s client base contributed to its filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this year.

Smaller Agencies Gained Ground
“The smaller shops are where the growth is,” says Smikle. “The black

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