The Madison Avenue Initiative

Millions could be at stake as minority media outlets face an ongoing "blackout" from national advertisers

to 50% more with ethnic newspapers in 1999. Other agreements are expected to follow.

In April, the NAN held its national convention. There, activists from across the country discussed strategies for making the Madison Avenue Initiative work.

"Buying media is one thing, but effectively an
d properly addressing the target audience is another," says Don Coleman, president and CEO of Don Coleman Advertising (No. 3 on the be advertising agenies list).

Coleman believes this crisis could actually improve business for black-owned advertising agencies-and the advertisers themselves-if the NAN and others are able to convince advertisers of the value of reaching multicultural markets. "If they really want their message to hit home, they should come to [minority advertising agencies], because we’ve been crafting these messages for years and are the best at doing it." Coleman says the money firms like his have lost to "no urban dictates" and "minority discounts" is "incalculable."

Unfortunately, the hurt and damage these policies have done cannot be measured either. And there are no easy solutions.

"At the end of the day, it’s the individuals who run the companies, the advertisers-not so much the advertising agencies-that will make the difference, because the advertisers can in large measure determine what policies the advertising agencies will adhere to," says Sutton. "If the advertiser tells the advertising agency there will be no discounting of minorities for the sake of discounting minorities, I think the advertising agency, being desirous of keeping that account, will not practice those negatives."

African Americans will most likely be waiting skeptically. Recent history has already proven that when it comes to minorities, being No. 1 isn’t enough.

Five reasons advertisers fail to support black media
The National Newspaper Publishers Association dispels the myths
"If black newspapers are not in your mix, you’re selling yourself short," insists Dorothy R. Leavell, president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. In a speech she delivered to the National Alliance of Market Developers Conference on Corporate Accountability, she claimed the assumptions surrounding the black consumer have been "distorted by myths and misrepresented by stereotypes."

Myth #1: The black market is monolithic. African Americans don’t all look alike, nor do they think alike, especially on the basis of gender. According to a 1998 study conducted by Ketchum Public Relations, black women (73.3%) are more likely than black men (62.7%) to base their purchase decisions on whether or not a company makes philanthropic contributions to the African American community.

Myth #2: Blacks mimic the purchasing patterns of whites. African Americans aren’t just white folks with a suntan. One example can be found at the grocery store (see "Supermarket Blackout," this issue). Blacks typically buy more perishable goods than whites, and blacks still favor homecooked meals while whites opt for "instant" vittles, according to Johnny Johnson, president and CEO of Community Pride Foods in Richmond, Virginia (No. 55 on the
be industrial/service 100 list).

Myth #3: Educated, middle-class blacks

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