By David Tucker, SVP Strategy

The inequities in American society have been laid bare across the news headlines in recent years. The ubiquity of smartphones and social media have provided more visibility and attention to ongoing systemic issues of racism and exclusion. Following the 2020 crisis of the pandemic – which disproportionately affected minority groups – and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, the calls for change grew. Both internally at MAGNA and Mediabrands and among our clients, it was clear that we needed to harness the power and dollars of media and advertising to address issues of representation, equality, and equity.

In March 2021 we introduced our Equity UpfrontTM, to bring attention and drive investment in media properties that serve the interests of disadvantaged groups. We began with BIPOC-audiences and media properties, but our efforts will expand to cover more underrepresented groups.

The need for greater minority-owned media investments was clearly present in the data we were examining in our daily insights and investment work. Our analysis revealed there was a capital case for investing in Black audiences. We also saw the very crucial role that media played building connections between and among Black audiences and brands. Finally, we realized the need to foster communities that bring together black media owners, creators, and audiences to create the kind of impact that brands want to have – both for their marketing KPIs and for the world.

The capital case for investing in Black American audiences is powerful. At 48 million people, Black Americans represent a sizable, young audience (average age 42) with $1.4 trillion in buying power, greater than the GDP Australia. Black Americans, as they always have done, are leading migrations into centers of culture and economic growth. This is perhaps why their disposable income is (finally!) rising faster than the US average. Lastly, they’re motivated to level up their skills and success: Black Americans are twice as likely to plan to go back to school or start a new business.

With this powerful audience, media plays a crucial role in fostering connections. These are connections brands need to power their future growth. Black voices lead mainstream culture in areas of music, sports, dance, fashion and more. They are voracious consumers of media and early adopters or everything from CTV to podcasts, creating more chances to intersect with their lives in meaningful ways. Black audiences want brands to use these connections to drive change. Two-thirds are passionate about social issues and want brands to speak up and out. And when brands do, Black audiences are 30% more likely to believe they’ve done so out of a genuine concern.

With powerful capital and a desire for connection the Black Audience is ready for greater advertiser investment. Black-focused ad spend in 2020 remained below 2% of total spend, despite Black consumers being 13%+ of the market. The inaugural Equity UpfrontTM is a first step towards building community, bringing together brands and the media properties best positioned to reach, empower, and motivate Black Americans. To build these robust communities requires representation and an authentic voice. That’s why we found that Black consumers were 3.7x more likely to be consuming content from Equity UpfrontTM participating media companies than the general internet (as measured by the Top 100 ComScore properties). Ownership is a critically motivating factor too: 30% of Black consumers have actively supported minority owned businesses recently. The companies that participated in our Equity UpfrontTM ranged from black-owned to black-targeted, but all bring forward the representation required at all stages of production and talent to speak authentically (and to help brands do so as well) to a highly desirable audience.

It is without question that more work remains to be done. But a majority of all Americans believe companies have a moral imperative to speak out against racial injustice. With our continuing Equity UpfrontTM work, we will drive forward the work of speaking out, empowering, and building the case the authentic connections with all groups. The money and power represented by media and advertising can be channeled towards outcomes that benefit all.