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confronts GM, Ford for lack on black newspaper ads
Hazel Trice Edney NNPA News Service (October 28, 2009) It is estimated by the Chicago-based research
firm, Target Market News, that African-American consumers will have
spent $2.8 billion on new General Motors cars in this year alone.
According to industry statistics, GM's models, which include Chevys,
Cadillacs, Saturns, Buicks, Pontiacs, and GMC trucks, represented just
above 18 percent of all the new cars purchased by African-Americans in
just the first seven months of this year.
Yet, published figures from national research sources found that GM
spent only $29.9 million on advertising in Black-oriented media in 2008.
That represents a meager 2.4 percent of the $1.17 billion of all of GM's
advertising expenditures. Market experts are baffled.
''Clearly there is a discrepancy in how GM allocated marketing dollars
to target Black consumers,'' says Ken Smikle, president of Target Market
News. ''One has to wonder why one of the top five advertisers in the
world would not invest more in reaching a segment of customers that
represents desperately needed growth. The imbalance between patronage
and marketing budgets is especially puzzling in a recession when
companies need to be competitive and strategic with every dollar they
This "puzzling" imbalance between Black consumer investments and Black
consumer returns from GM, Ford and the automotive industry at large is
the reason that Danny Bakewell (pictured), chairman of the National
Newspaper Publishers Association, says he will lead the federation of
more than 200 Black-owned newspapers in a direct confrontation with the
"This is not only unfair, it is unjust, it is malignant, and borders on
just being criminal that they're just taking this money out of our
community and not having any kind of respect. They wouldn't do this to
any other consumer," says Bakewell in a telephone interview. "These are
the people who trust us to steer them to the right product. If these
people are taking our people for granted; then we're going to steer them
to other products. I am declaring that this is not something that we are
going to idly sit by and let happen to our people and to our community."
When Bakewell showed up at the Rainbow/PUSH 10th Annual Automotive
Summit in Detroit early this month, observers said both GM and Ford
representatives got that message clearly.
''He spoke from the audience about, 'What are you going to do for the
bottom line?'" recalls Glenda Gill, executive director of Rainbow/PUSH's
Automotive Project. The annual summit is the only one of its kind that
provides automotive manufacturers an opportunity to dialog with Black
and other cultural markets.
The two panelists questioned by Bakewell were Vice President of Global
Procurement for General Motors, Bob Sousha and Vice President of Global
Procurement for Ford Motor Company Thomas Brown. Neither could be
reached for comment this week.
However, interviews with other GM and Ford representatives revealed that
the corporations generally do not chart the specific dollar amounts
going to Black-owned or Black-targeted media for specific media buys.
They mainly work from the federal government definition of "minority",
which means any race other than White; plus women-owned businesses.
"I don't think we break it down by minority per se. It's not broken down
by how many African-American suppliers, how many female, how many
Hispanic and that kind of thing," said Dan Flores, GM Corporate
Bakewell says that Ford appears to be making greater strides and greater
efforts to respond to the Black community.
"But they still have a ways to go" in relation to Black newspapers, he
Armando Ojeda, director of supplier diversity development for Ford, says
Ford continues to work to "increase the dollar value we spend with all
of our minority suppliers, which includes African-American suppliers
through any number of initiatives."
Ford spokesman Todd Nissen says advertising with Black media, including
Black newspapers, is done through UniWorld, the New York-based
advertising firm that is the nation's largest Black-owned and operated
However, Ojeda adds that industry trends may be leaning away from
newspapers and more toward the Internet.
To circumvent such trends that are largely insensitive to Black
communities, Bakewell says he intends to start with top corporate
leadership, from which decisions will trickle down.
"I am moving to get a meeting with the CEO and the chief marketing
officer for both of these companies because I cannot believe that they
are aware of this giant gulf between our loyalty and the disrespect that
we're being given by these companies," Bakewell says.
Figures from the R. L. Polk Research Company show that African-Americans
still purchased more than 320,000 new cars between January and July of
this year. This represents 7.1 percent of all new cars bought.
The national advertising industry in general takes for granted Black
consumers, which spend billions for their goods and products, Bakewell
"Instead of using that as a basis for supporting us, they're using it as
a basis against us to say, 'If you're supporting us at that level, why
do we need to support you. We've already got the market,'" he describes.
NNPA will have help in its pursuit of economic inclusion.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and CEO of Rainbow/PUSH, says he will
work with NNPA to assert pressure from the civil rights side –
particularly on those manufacturers – such as GM and Chrysler- that have
received billions of dollars in economic bailout money from taxpayers.
"Now that the government has taken over, it must enforce its own laws of
equal opportunity, contract compliance and fairness. These are
government-run companies now. And this is a critical moment," Jackson
says. "They cannot ignore affirmative action laws. This applies to jobs,
dealership contracts, advertisements and professional services." He and
Bakewell say they will also seek Congressional hearings on advertising
Ford was able to survive the economic downturn without bankruptsy or a
Praising Jackson for "creating the atmosphere for this dialog," Bakewell
says he will form a web of partnerships to work alongside the Black
Press of America and is willing to even ask the involvement of NNPA
board members and publishers.
"I'm going to ask the board to buy stock in these companies. I'm going
to ask to go to their board meetings. If we don't get some real serious
response to this, then this issue – even if we have to bring our
200-plus publishers from across this country and show up on the door
steps of General Motors and Ford, we are going to do that. We are going
to make this a public issue because it is unethical, it is immoral and
it seems to me to be something that would be illegal."