*Black media has always been at the center of telling diverse stories and raising the public consciousness about the issues facing Black people. In these unprecedented times, the Black Press has continued its role as a long-trusted source of credible health and other information keeping us aware, educated, and up-to-date on the ever-changing story of COVID-19. Further, its value continues to be unparalleled in amplifying Black voices, championing Black causes and reflecting Black culture and people as we are, not as others frame us.
Yet, there are a myriad of factors that make ad and partnership dollars harder to secure for Black media outlets. For one, advertisers still aren’t talking to Black audiences despite Nielsen data showing African Americans have increasing cultural, economic, and political influence. In 2019, Black buying power in America was $1.4 trillion, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, but less than 2% of all ad revenue spent in the U.S., some $200 billion, targeted Black consumers according to Nielsen.
Black media entrepreneurs, whose companies are often smaller with less capital, also cite a lack of value placed on Black audiences, as well as agencies that target Black consumers, but refuse to hire Black-owned media companies to create, curate and distribute the content. Add to that the buying restrictions that are placed upon Black-owned media companies and the arbitrary way rates are set, and the industry is completely destabilized.
As IPG Mediabrands—the media and marketing solutions arm of Interpublic Group that manages roughly $40 billion in marketing investment globally on behalf of its clients including American Express, BMW, CVS Health/Aetna, Johnson & Johnson and more—launches an “Equity Upfront” to raise the visibility of Black-owned and Black-targeted media businesses, Richelieu Dennis, founder of Essence Ventures, the parent company of ESSENCE, offers a frank discourse on what it will take for Black-owned media companies to reach true equity. — As told to Tanisha A. Sykes
For the past 30 years, I’ve been fighting for economic equity in the businesses my family and I have built. So this isn’t new for us. Whether it’s growing Shea Moisture and investing 10% of our revenues into supporting the economic inclusion, empowerment, and education of Black women in both Africa and in the U.S., or launching the $100 million New Voices Fund that invests in businesses owned or managed by women of color, we’ve been fighting for economic equity for a long time.
This commentary by Richelieu Dennis continues at ESSENCE.