Making Cultural Connections

Making Cultural Connections

spending. Measurement is not just focused on the reach of a given campaign but also its level of engagement; and social media has redefined what it means to connect with an audience. Many black agencies have struggled to compete against larger firms that have included multicultural shops among their offerings. Despite the carnage, Coleman has continued to emerge victorious.

His vision has evolved from Don Coleman Advertising Inc., a small Detroit-based agency launched in 1988, to a powerful collection of four firms targeted at distinct segments of the population: GlobalHue Africanic and GlobalHue Next (aimed at the burgeoning youth market)–of which Coleman is the majority owner–plus, GlobalHue Latino and GlobalHue Asian.

With offices in New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles, these entities have grown to become the leading African American agency, the third-largest Hispanic agency, and among the top Asian American agencies in the country. Together they were acknowledged in 2009 as Adweek’s Multicultural Agency of the Decade. And with clients that include Verizon, FedEx, Subway, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Census Bureau, and Walmart, as well as Jeep and the Bermuda Department of Tourism, both of which were gained as general market business, the agencies posted collective billings of $833.7 million last year with almost 400 combined employees.

“Because our business model wasn’t singly focused–it was multi-platformed–we were able to draw from a number of  different revenue streams. That’s how we got through,” explains Coleman. “Then, of course, there was our evolution into what we call the total market, with our win of the Jeep business at Chrysler, and Bermuda Tourism.”

GlobalHue has coined the term “total market” to address the complex, multifaceted nature of today’s overall audience, particularly in the youth market, which is less narrowly defined by race. “We tapped into all the cultural marketing approaches, and those were the revenue streams that allowed us to maintain ourselves.”

But the tough economic environment has also presented opportunities for GlobalHue. “All the politics and cronyism go out the window when the client’s butt is on the line to grow and maintain the business,” Coleman asserts. “That’s how we were able to win the Jeep business. You had a company in Chrysler that was bankrupt, bailed out, new ownership, on the edge. So they don’t have time to play the old-boy games. They want the best thinking, the best work, and that’s an opportunity for multicultural or smaller agencies to break through.”

(Continued on page 3)