Luxury Brand Advertising Often Absent in Black Media

Experts say black buying power often overlooked

Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH), the parent company to brands including Fendi, Tag Heuer, Marc Jacobs, and Louis Vuitton, spent the most money on ads in black publications. They bought about 12 ad pages for $1.2 million in 2008. (More than six of those ads were for Hennessey.) On the other hand, LVMH bought 1,014 ad pages in about 70 general market publications for $192 million.

Essence, with a total circulation (including subscriptions and single copy sales) of 1,092,721, regularly showcases high-end fashion and style, yet received $2 million in total ad spending from the 23 luxury companies, while titles such as Marie Claire, with a circulation of 992,595 (including subscriptions and single copy sales), received $1 million in spending for Macy’s ads alone.

LVMH did not respond to requests for comments.

Power of the Black Dollar

So why the disparity? Some believe that luxury companies don’t advertise in black print media because black consumers don’t buy their products, but the reality is that the buying power of blacks is projected to grow to more than $1 trillion by 2012, according to the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth.

“Remember, a lot of people saw Michelle Obama and thought she came from Mars,” says Robin Givhan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion reporter. “The idea that women like her existed outside of the Cosby Show came as a bolt of lightening for a lot of people.” On the campaign trail she wore high-end designers such as Narciso Rodriguez, Thakoon, Sonia Rykiel, Moschino, and mid-range items from J.Crew and H&M. Before she left Chicago for the White House, the first lady was known to shop at Ikram, a high-end women’s boutique.

Others believe that the companies don’t advertise with black media because they don’t have to. They know African Americans will buy the products, so why bother?

Carol H. Williams, founder and CEO of the Carol H. Williams advertising agency (No. 2 on the BE Advertising Agencies list with $311 million in billings), says the “cool” factor in African American buying power makes it worthwhile to target such a loyal consumer base. When blacks buy a product, she adds, that product becomes popular and worthy of consideration by other consumers.

Regardless of the reason behind the dearth of advertising dollars, luxury brands haven’t caught up to the 21st century, says Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a research organization that studies high net worth consumers.

“I think it is a benign lack of knowledge. There is no malice or ill intent toward anyone. The luxury industry has always been very product-centric and not customer-centric,” says Pedraza. “That means [they] are not tracking which customers buy at which time. They don’t have a plan. [They are] focused on selling the best scarves, the best ties, the best shoes [and] thinking about design and fashion.”

But Givhan says that in a multicultural global industry, ignorance is no excuse.

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  • http://www.vox-pop.co.uk vox-popPRcareers

    BE is always on point with their features.

    Couldn’t agree more. Though I think that luxury brands who don’t use black models probably won’t advertise in black magazines.

    Ajuma Nasanyana was a model for Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith, both British luxury labels though. Interestly Giorgio Armani, Versace and Prada are all Italian luxury provided who don’t use black models.

    I think that’s a really interesting sign.

    Personally, while I like certain luxury brands, I can only really support the ones that use black models in their advertising so this will include Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Louis Vuittion (Naomi Campbell spread) etc.

  • Joy

    This article really hits home for me. I love luxury items, but due to many unknown factors, I can’t seem to locate m/any black designers which leads to my search for non-black designers to purchase products. At one point, as a teenager, I REFUSED to buy products from luxury designers who never feature black models. But, these days, this same logic will leave me naked, since it seems that none of the designers feature black models. It is frustrating. I’m at the point whereas I am looking for a seamstress to make my clothes. That way I can keep the black dollars in the black community without empowering non-black designers who ignore us.

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