GroupM, which is owned by WPP, is one of a handful of major holding companies controlling tens of billions of dollars in advertising. It plans to ask its clients to commit to spending 2% of their annual budgets on Black-owned media while also incubating an “accelerator” program to promote Black creative talent.
IPG has said it will direct at least 5% of its annual spending to Black-owned media by 2023.
The commitments by GroupM and IPG were initially reported by AdAge.
In an interview with Deadline, Allen commended GroupM for its stance, but said the 2% pledge was “too skinny. We’re encouraging them to step up their commitment.”
Allen said he has spent more than a year leading the effort to address inequalities in the ad business. The effort picked up steam last summer amid nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd. Allen said he was inspired by a conversation years earlier with Coretta Scott King, who told him that economic opportunity is a crucial aspect of racial justice. “This is the conversation white America doesn’t want to have: true economic inclusion for Black America,” Allen said.
The news about the ad agency commitments comes a day before the Black Owned Media Upfront, an event spearheaded by Allen. It will showcase brands like Revolt, Ebony Magazine, Urban Edge Networks and The African Channel. Allen Media Group, whose digital, film and TV assets include the Weather Channel, will also be part of the upfront, which highlights companies with at least 51% Black ownership.
Allen told Deadline that the ad agency news is “an historic moment for corporate America and for Black America because the greatest trade deficit in the United States is the trade deficit between White corporate America and Black America, and we must close that trade gap immediately so that we can achieve ONE AMERICA.” said Byron Allen, Founder, Chairman & CEO of Allen Media Group.
He said advertising plays a key role in the “four Es” – education, economic inclusion, equal justice and environmental protection and the buy-in from the giant holding companies is a turning point. “I will not stop until every corporation in America follows their excellent example.”
In March, Allen took out a full-page ad in several major newspapers, accusing General Motors CEO Mary Barra of racism. The letter was also signed by Ice Cube, Roland Martin, Don Jackson, Earl ‘Butch’ Graves and Junior Bridgeman. The automotive category has long been a mainstay of overall advertising. The letter said GM devotes only 0.5% of its multi-billion-dollar annual marketing budget to Black-owned media and Barra had declined multiple requests from Allen and his associates for an in-person meeting. GM later pointed out inaccuracies in the letter, which it called “character assault” against Barra, and she did schedule a sit-down with the group.
Allen said GM agreed to increase its pledge to 8% after the meeting.