Affirmative Action in Hiring and Firing in the Ad Industry and/or Ad Firms
Advertising in the United States means a lot of money and as much as $2.1 million is spent on each advertisement during the Super Bowl advertisements lasting for 30 seconds. There is now a question as to whether the composition of workers within the industry, both in the creative sections and in the non-creative sections will affect the effectiveness of the advertising they create. It is true that today there are a lot more of black people being shown on the national television commercials. Whether they are being shown in suitable roles or not can be disputed, but they are certainly present in greater numbers. Today there are many commercials with black people on an increasing number of stations than at any previous time in history. There are of course not enough people being shown with other racial compositions though. It is often said that this showing of people is determined by the success of the advertising in terms of bringing in returns
Now let us have an understanding about a governmental study whereby we shall make the assumption that it is not influenced by considerations of racial ideologies. Certain radio stations which were minor had requested advertisements from the Beef Council. The reply from the council was that they will not buy time on the urban and formatted radio stations as they claimed that black people did not eat beef. (National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, 1996, pp.1-2) A similar reason was given by a major manufacturer of mayonnaise, again with the justification that black people do not eat mayonnaise for not buying commercial time. (National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, 1997, p. 2) In Washington DC area there are two leaders of the minority formatted radio stations - WHUR, and WKYS. They have better demographics based on measured income, age of audience, college graduation and employment ratios than the leading station in the top 40 - WPGC. Yet, they have a much lower power ratio. (National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, 1997, pp. 4-5)
There are some products for which the blacks are the major consumers like the cognac or liquor industry. There between 60 to 70% of the consumption is by the Blacks. There are also similar cases in the promotion of tourism, especially the travel to Caribbean or other up market places. For this also the advertising never shows blacks as a major target. The feeling in the advertising world is that if they show blacks as the target audience, then the whites will not be interested in the product, and this will ultimately cause losses (National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, 1997, p.37). These misconceptions often arise from wrong ideas about the minorities. There is a report of an interview with Luis Alvares, who was the Local Sales Manager of two Spanish Broadcasting system units, WSKQ and WPAT. He had tried to sell the radio stations for advertising to a brand called Ivory soap, but there was a refusal to buy from the buyer.
The buyer gave the reason as that they have studies which showed that Hispanics did not bathe as frequently as non-Hispanics. This sort of ideas may be true studies or just the gut feeling of the agencies. The reason for such reactions was well-known in the advertising circles. An advertising executive in the St. Louis area mentioned that it was a fact that most advertising agencies in the area were lily white totally, from the front door to the back wall. This made it difficult for the agencies to understand the black people whom they were advertising to. It was also felt by them that most of the black young men were gang members and criminals or the like. (National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, 1997, p.42) Thus it is clear that in many parts of the country do not have enough numbers of black men in advertising and this deficiency is also leading to a lot of errors in advertising.
On top of this there are certain biases against the minorities. An example of this is the instance of Hispanics and groceries. The Hispanics are probably the biggest buyers of groceries, and they probably buy 20 to 30% more of groceries than other communities, due to their own lifestyle. The first reason is that they have much larger households than the white Americans and this leads to higher grocery consumption. On top of the largeness of the household, this leads to greater consumption of groceries as they eat more at home due to their family structure and lifestyle. This behavior also helps them cut down on restaurant bills. They also have a behavior of meeting at each other's place more often, and that also leads to more groceries. On the other side, the items inside a grocery store make up between 30 to 40% of the total advertising on the radio advertising; in addition to this is the advertising by the grocery stores themselves. Logically, this means that a lot of the grocery based advertising should be directed to the Hispanics.
Some people even say specifically that they do not want Hispanics in their store. Another reason is probably ignorance about the strength of numbers of the Hispanic population in some parts of the country. When the person deciding on the advertising budget sits at an outside location, where there are not many Hispanics, he may not be aware that they make up a sizeable number of the customers in some parts of the country. When the people have formed an opinion about Hispanics based not on real life experience but on TV, they often form a very poor image about them as their image is based on the characters that they are portrayed in on the TV or cinema. There they are shown as pimps, prostitutes, illegal aliens, drug dealers, and other types of people on the wrong side of the law. This makes them feel that Hispanics are not a desirable section of the population. (National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, 1997, pp.44-45) This sort of image about the minorities goes on and on.
There is an urban formatted station, WBGE-FM, who had station manager named Michael Banks. He was told by a customer directly "Your station will bring too many Black people to my place of business." (National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, 1997, p. 46) There is also the report of a store that moved from New York to a smaller town called Huntsville at the southern end. This town has a road that divides it into two sections - North and South. The major part of the black population lives north and the whites live south. The store moved to this location and the owner was aware of the fact that the black customers spent more on groceries than the whites. He was willing to try out the black customers and put on an advertisement on the black radio channel. This brought him a lot of customers from the black people. Then the store owner said that he wanted to cancel the advertisement. The reason he gave for cancellation was that he felt that his pilferage rate had increased, but he had no proof of that. He said that he did not have enough workers to judge it, but he felt that the people who were coming to the store looked suspicious, and he was certain that they were shoplifting. (National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, 1997, p. 46)
This sort of an image in the media users is also reinforced by the behaviors of some of the radio stations. One of them prepared a memo for its own sales force saying "Get buyers to understand that WABC is one of the most upscale select stations in New York. We must get the buying community to understand and appreciate the unique qualitative, personality, and foreground profile of WABC. Advertisers should want prospects not suspects." (National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, 1997, pp.47-48) It is not only the small store owner who is ignorant and who holds such opinion. This was told by a Macy's department store to a sales representative of a major Spanish broadcasting channel, WSKQ and WPAT. They said that their pilferage will increase if they advertised to the Hispanic market.
These complaints by the owners of the black media are not new and are being made for decades. Recently on January 13th, there was a study released by the Federal Communications Commission that confirmed that many advertisers often excluded radio stations which specifically targeted the black and Latino audiences from their advertising plans. If by chance they include them, they try to pay them much lower rates than the white stations even with their having larger audiences. This study revealed that the advertising industry had a practice called NUD. This means no urban dictates or no Spanish dictates. When this is applied, the advertisers automatically exclude stations which are…
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