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NABOB wants to meet with BMW to discuss "No Urban Dictate" media buy e-mail

(August 17, 2009) The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters has weighed in on the controversy surrounding the "No Urban Dictate" issue in an upcoming ad campaign for BMW's MINI Cooper line. The trade organization has requested a meeting with the chairman and CEO of BMW, Jim O'Donnell, to discuss the implications of an email from the media buying agency for the carmaker requesting information from radio stations in the Boston, Houston, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. markets. The criteria stated "No combos or urban formats" should be included in the information requested.

In the letter, NABOB executive director, James Winston, wrote that the "fact that BMW/MINIs' ad agency would be so bold as to put such discrimination in writing raises serious questions.  The discriminatory avail issued on behalf of BMW/MINI raises the uncomfortable specter of a corporate culture that condones discriminatory practices, or, at best, fails to recognize the need for a corporate effort to promote diversity in your advertising practices -- and in attracting customers for your products."

The email, which originated from a senior buyer at Palisades Media Group, was shared with NABOB by Sherman Kizart, Managing Partner of the rep firm, Kizart Media Partners.

In a letter responding to Kizart's query about the matter, Palisades chairman and CEO, Roger A. Schaffner said that the directive not to include Urban radio stations was the misguided decision of one person and not done "through any directive from Palisades Media personnel, or [BMW's general market ad agency] Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners personnel or MINI personnel."

"This was a single, isolated incident," Schaffner's letter continued, "that we have taken steps to make sure does not repeat itself in the future in any department of our company."

Winston responded that "too many questions remain unanswered to sweep this matter under the rug." Among the issues NABOB wants to discuss with BMW is its relationship with the Matlock Agency, its African-American ad agency of record.  "Why didn't BMW/MINI involve its African-American ad agency in these buys?" asks Winston. "When and how do you use your African-American agency?"

Others have raised questions about BMW's advertising policies since the disclosure of the NUD email. David Honig, president and executive director of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, wrote to the FCC about the implications of the BMW email and the need for enforcement of regulations adopted by the Commission to end No Urban Dictates.

"This travesty has gone on for decades," wrote Honig. "It took 24 years for the Commission to adopt this rule even though it was unopposed…Although the practice mostly occurs under the cover of whispered oral instructions, last week MINI Cooper's agency issued a four-market written NUD."

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