“Lazy” – that is what Doug Ray, CEO of Dentsu Media, conceded his organization has been when addressing the barriers that it has already acknowledged exist when ensuring that ad dollars flow to minority-owned and targeted media outlets. He said Dentsu is doing something about it. The agency that buys for blue chip brands, has launched what it has called Project Booker to help steer more dollars to minority outlets.
“As we went through the summer, it was very clear to me that we weren’t activating. That we weren’t doing enough. And we had to something different,” said Ray. He told the Broadcaster Access to Capital Virtual Symposium last week that Dentsu realized some of the blame was on them. “Total market planning is a huge barrier,” he said. “And we’ve been lazy as an organization.”
That led to what Ray said is Dentsu moving away from a ratings-based “interruption” model of advertising toward an “engagement” model that puts brands into a different marketing environment. “These minority-owned broadcasters and businesses have deep relationships with their listeners, and oftentimes we overlooked that because we were looking at the CPM or at the ratings,” he said. “We have been looking for value by looking for cheaper media that doesn’t necessarily correlate to brand growth.”
To change that focus, Project Booker is geared toward brands creating new content and sponsorship opportunities. Ray said that “at least five clients” have gotten on board. This month Dentsu issued an RFP to four black-owned production companies to create programming that will be tied to clients’ marketing strategies during Black History Month in February. Ray thinks similar strategies could work for Hispanic History Month in October and LGBTQ Pride Month in June. “This is not an advertising idea, this is a societal opportunity to create systematic change in our industry,” he said.
Putting Focus On Advertising
Media consultant Sherman Kizart says the racial justice focus this year has led to progress in his conversations with brands including Procter & Gamble, General Motors, T-Mobile and McDonald’s, among others. “All have pivoted around how they are doing business with minority-owned media companies,” said Kizart.
In Washington, a lot of focus is on changing rules and adopting programs to help minority owners buy stations. But Spanish Broadcasting System CEO Raul Alarcón said advertising and ratings are just as important. “It all ends at this doorstep,” he said. “Without the money to back up all of this, we really don’t get too far as an industry.”
And while he welcomed the change of tone by some national marketers, Alarcón said he still wonders whether it was “ignorance” or a “lack of knowledge” on the part of clients that have resisted buying minority-targeted media outlets.
Steve Williams, Global COO of Essence Communications – a division of WPP’s GroupM – said he thinks it has been “unintended ignorance” that has steered advertisers away. “I do believe people have good in their hearts in our industry,” he said. “So, I’m pleased the issues are in very plain sight.”
Williams was one of the executives who has been working with the American Association of Advertising Agencies, or the 4A’s, on a new initiative designed to funnel more ad dollars to minority-owned radio stations and media outlets. As Inside Radio reported last month, the five-point commitment would do away with the words “general” or “total” market planning and instead push buyers to “plan to a standard” to ensure a broader, holistic approach when it comes to targeting discrete audiences.
Still A Tough Sell
Curtis Farrow, CEO and founder of the ad agency Irving Street Rep, said his experience running a Black agency has confirmed that systematic racism is a reality. He said he has had numerous examples of a Black or Hispanic radio station launch in which advertisers are “afraid” to put any dollars toward the audience until they have ratings in hand, even though those demos are part of their core customer base. “We need to have folks who are going to activate between client and media,” he said.
The so-called “fierce urgency of now” may hang in the air like no time since the 1960s, but Ray urged minority media companies to avoid a forceful attitude and instead make allies in the ad buying community who will advocate for them.“They may not be the most senior individuals, but they are there, and we need to listen to them and their ideas,” said Ray.