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.

of powerhouse general-market agency Young & Rubicam Inc. Fudge and Renetta McCann, CEO at Starcom North America, are the only two African American women at the helm of general-market agencies. Ken Gilbert returned to UniWorld where he was named president and COO. The former chief marketing officer at Snapple Beverage Group is thought to be Byron Lewis’ heir apparent. In addition, Chuck Morrison was recently promoted to take over the reins at UniWorld’s new Detroit office as executive vice president. GlobalHue will not be filling the president position made available by the exit of Kevyn Lewis, who was replaced by Cristián Dobles, the new senior vice president and executive creative director. L. Renee Richardson was named director of African American markets for Tapestry, the multicultural arm of Starcom Mediavest Group charged with placing $130 million in African American and Hispanic media for Kraft Foods, Allstate, Walt Disney World, and other SMG clients.

On The Horizon
The future is hopeful. “There is a great opportunity ahead in partnering,” says Constance Cannon Frazier, senior vice president, Mosaic Center and Education Services of the American Advertising Federation in Washington, D.C. “African American agencies need to forge relationships with the various industry entities and share information.” Morris agrees, and adds that being flexible and more client-conscious will also be strong strategies. “As these mega holding companies continue to grow, their ability to turn things around is much more limited. We don’t have six layers of review. When a client says they want something, we do it without four conferences on it,” says Morris. “Their size has nothing to do with having a good idea. Being a $3 billion holding company doesn’t give you a monopoly on creativity.”

Advertising Agencies Eligibility
An advertising agency must be at least 51% black-owned and have been fully operational for the previous calendar year. To qualify as a full-service advertising agency, the company must provide creative services as well as make media placements: purchasing time and/or space for a clients’ advertising. Companies that only provide consulting services, create or produce advertising, or do media placements do not qualify as full-service agencies. (We canvassed the Standard Directory of Advertising Agencies, combined industry publications, and made inquiries in the field to identify full-service agencies.)

An agency’s financial status is measured in terms of billings — monies allocated by an advertiser to its agency to buy time on television and/or radio, or space in publications. These media outlets then pay a commission back to the agency in the form of a discount, typically between 15% and 20%, which the agency counts as revenue. Other sources of revenue include production fees that the agency charges to its clients and fees for adjunct services such as public relations, consulting, and promotional work. Our ranking of the 15 top agencies is based on a combined total of actualized billings, in addition to capitalized billings (commissions that haven’t been paid but the media buys were completed), and other agency fees reported as revenues — an accepted industry practice for reporting earnings.
Additional reporting

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