Black Media Hopeful on Election Ad Spending

Jul 13, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Four years after some African American media outlets were bitterly disappointed with the spending they got in the last presidential race, there is hope that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s presence on the Democratic ticket will lead to a significant increase.
Even as the Obama campaign has so far done relatively little spending on media and programming aimed at African Americans, ongoing talks are giving some media executives hope for a return to the glory years—the years of Bill Clinton’s runs for the presidency.
The possibility of Obama ads also has African American media companies holding out some optimism for ads from rival John McCain or Republicans, though hopes for those aren’t as strong.
Louis Carr, president of media sales for BET Networks, said the cable network is in talks with Fuse Advertising, the St. Louis agency that is handling the Obama campaign.
“I’ve been here 22 years. There has always been real concern that the [African American] audience is not taken for granted,” he said. “We’re assuming from the Democratic side that that won’t happen this time around. The audience has to be motivated to get out and vote.”
He said a black audience motivated to vote could also impact congressional and local elections.
African American media companies were also hopeful four years ago, especially after the campaign of Democrat John Kerry in July announced a $2 million buy. But the buy, say African American media experts, never was completed. BET got some money, but not much went to other outlets with racially diverse audiences, they said.
Multicultural experts say the candidates should spend the money to reach minority voters.
“The Obama campaign should take nothing for granted,” said Don Coleman, chairman-CEO of multicultural agency GlobalHue. “They need to pay particular attention to the 18-30 demo. Urban radio, cable and the Web are all essential. That’s not to imply the mass AA target should be ignored. The traditional Democratic voter will come to the polls. The hard-to-count and younger voter will propel him to victory.”
The Obama campaign itself is suggesting it is interested in reaching out to black voters.
An Obama spokesman said African American media has been “a high priority to the campaign, and will continue to be in the remaining months.” He said the campaign is not in a position to disclose its strategy for use of the media going forward.
Besides cable, the stakes are high for urban radio and African American newspapers.
“We are very optimistic,” said Sherman K. Kizart, senior VP and director of urban marketing for Interep, which as the country’s biggest independent radio rep firm represents more than 100 urban-format stations. He said his company is in talks with Fuse.
Dorothy Leavell, president of the Crusader Newspapers in Gary, Ind., and Chicago and chairman of the marketing committee of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, said she is hopeful that the newspapers may yet see a return to the kind of spending done when Bill Clinton first ran.
“The black vote is instrumental in many of the black politicians’ success,” she said.
She also suggested that the readership of black daily newspapers hasn’t dropped as much as other daily papers in part because readers find news they can’t find elsewhere.
“If you want to read about blacks, you’ve got to read the black newspapers,” she said.
While the McCain campaign has shown no indication of buying ads aimed at African Americans, Mike Hudome, head of the campaign’s advertising team, said it is possible.
“We aren’t ruling out anything. That’s for sure,” he said.


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