Holding the Ad Industry Accountable to Black Consumers

When most people consider the importance of black-owned media, they tend to focus on the editorial content and its critical role in providing a voice for African Americans, and the media’s coverage of the issues and concerns that speak specifically to our community. However, it’s critical to understand that none of this is possible without advertising. In fact, black-owned media cannot be fully appreciated without recognizing the role we play in pushing the advertising industry to spend at levels commensurate with the growth and value of the black consumer market.

In an era of African American media consumption from wider and more diverse sources than ever before, black-owned media are still seen as the most committed to the interests and advancement of people of color. Evidence of this can be found in the recent American Magazine Study done by Affinity, a media research firm, in which readers ranked black enterprise among the top 10 most trusted magazines and the third most inspiring.

However, the story of Black Enterprise, and black-owned media in general, is about more than groundbreaking articles and award-winning content across diverse media platforms delivered by top-notch editors and producers. It’s also about a passionate, tenacious, and dedicated advertising and sponsorship sales team committed to ensuring that those of you who make up our audience–and the trillion dollars in spending power you bring to the table–are not taken for granted. As the founder and publisher of Black Enterprise, I’ve spent most of my career leading this crusade. It is in that spirit that I was pleased to be inducted this year into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame in March.

I wouldn’t have gone far as a young publisher when I launched Black Enterprise in 1970 without advertisers who were willing to invest in what was then an untapped, barely understood black consumer market. Today, the black enterprise brand extends well beyond the magazine to television, live events, and digital and social media platforms. And those advertising partners who have taken the journey with us have been rewarded with robust sales and customer loyalty.

It was a long, hard-fought battle to get advertisers to recognize and value the then emerging black business market, even after we proved its existence and proceeded to help define and expand it. A few potential advertisers even told me that they wouldn’t advertise with us because they didn’t want to associate their products and services with black people. Today, African Americans are a coveted market that no savvy company would ignore, and African Americans are featured in global campaigns that target all audiences.

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