Advertisers aren’t tapping into strong African American market, report says


Rev Jesse Jackson attends the official launch party of BritWeek at a private residence in Hancock Park 2012 on April 24, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Frazer Harrison/GETTY IMAGES)
September 21, 2012

Even after absorbing a devastating economic hit from the Great Recession, black consumers remain a potent force but are often overlooked by advertisers, according to a new research report.

African Americans are projected to have a combined spending power of $1.1 trillion by 2015, according to the report released on Friday by the market-research firm Nielsen and the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents 200 black-oriented newspapers.

As a group, African Americans have a set of spending habits and brand loyalty that should be attractive to advertisers. More than other demographic groups, blacks tend to buy “brand-name” products, watch television and spend time shopping or frequenting fast-food restaurants, the report said.

Still, media outlets directed at black audiences earned just a tiny slice — less than 2 percent — of the more than $120 billion that firms spent on advertising in 2011, according to the report.

“Companies that don’t advertise using black media risk having African Americans perceive them as being dismissive of issues that matter to black consumers,” said Cloves Campbell, chairman of NNPA. “This report demonstrates what a sustainable and influential economic force we are.”

Black-oriented media have been caught in the throes of the dramatic changes wrought by the explosion of digital media, which has crimped revenue and audiences for both mainstream and niche news outlets. Nonetheless, they continue to follow stories overlooked by the mainstream press, a fact that black consumers recognize, according to the report.

Black media have lifted major news events and issues to national prominence in the past, such as the plight of black GIs during World War II, Jackie Robinson’s rise to baseball’s major leagues and the gruesome murder of Emmett Till.

Recently news such as the disproportionate impact of the down economy on the black community and the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s recent trip to the Gambia, where he managed to get President Yayha Jammeh to reconsider the executions of 46 death-row inmates, has tended to get much more attention in the black press.

On his trip, Jackson also secured to the freedom of two Gambian Americans who were facing long prison sentences for their political activity in that country. One was a former University of Tennessee professor, Amadou Scattred Janneh, who also served as Gambia’s minister of communications. He was arrested last year for printing T-shirts that read “Coalition for Change” and “End Dictatorship Now” on the front and “Freedom” on the back.

The other, Tamsir Jassey, is an Operation Desert Storm veteran who also served as Gambia’s director general of immigration. He was serving a 20-year sentence after being convicted of aiding the escape of a man suspected of trying to overthrow Jammeh.

“Why hasn't this been in the mainstream media?” Jackson asked during a news conference held to publicize the report at the Congressional Black Caucus’s 42nd Annual Legislative Conference.

That kind of coverage matters to viewers and readers, and ultimately advertisers, the report said. More than 90 percent of black consumers believe that black media is more relevant to them than are mainstream outlets, the report said. Consequently, it said, 81 percent of black consumers believe that products advertised in black media are more relevant to them.

Michael A. Fletcher is a national economics correspondent, writing about unemployment, state and municipal debt, the evolving job market and the auto industry.
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