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Byron Allen Threatens to Sue Ad Agencies for Neglecting Black Press

by Michael Allen

 

Advertising often lights up places like Times Square in New York. But Black media owners often have trouble getting companies to advertise in Black press.

 

 

Media Mogul Threatens to Sue Over Ad Allocations to Black-Owned Media


Since the beginning of big-name, Black-owned media companies, Black media company owners have talked about the struggle to get major advertising companies to advertise with the Black press.


In his autobiography “Succeeding Against the Odds,” Jet and Ebony Magazine Founder John H. Johnson wrote that he had to convince major companies to feature Black models in their print advertisements because Black consumers would respond better if they saw someone from their community promoting a product.


In the 21st century, media superstar Roland Martin frequently takes to social media to talk about the difficulty of getting advertising companies to promote products in the Black press, despite having the numbers that those sponsors seek.


Now, media mogul Byron Allen has threatened to sue major advertising firms for overlooking the Black press despite many companies promising to promote diversity in the wake of the 2020 death of George Floyd under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin.


The Grio.com reported, “Last week, Allen…sent letters of intent to several major brands and their ad agencies that urged them to increase their purchase of ad space to Black-owned entities by 2%. If they didn’t, he maintained, they’d see him in court.”


Allen has had conversations with CEOs and board members of several advertising agencies and holding companies in an attempt to get more advertising dollars for Black-owned media companies.


However, Allen said he has not had much success in his efforts.


The billionaire media mogul said that companies who have promised to work more with minority companies have made good on their promises by working with female-owned companies, not companies owned by people of color.


Allen said, “We are only talking about what you do with Black-owned media, and unfortunately, it is nearly extinct because of the racism on Madison Avenue.”


TheGrio.com reported, “According to Ad Age, Allen wants companies to ‘catch up’ for what he calls years of ‘neglect’ by demanding that major brands increase the cost to reach a thousand viewers, an industry-standard known as CPMs. He is also encouraging brands to do sponsorships with Black-owned media outlets and be willing to strike deals based on non-ratings guarantees.”


In 2020, advertising spending numbers were mixed.


Because of the coronavirus pandemic, traditional media took a hit.


However, political ad spending kept many media entities intact.


Ad Age’s Kevin Brown wrote, “COVID-19, its associated lockdowns and fear of contagion sent consumers home and kept them out of stores. Automotive advertising in traditional media (down more than 25% for the year), travel (down more than 50%), and non-digital retail advertising (down more than 20%) were key categories in 2020’s advertising decline. But worldwide digital ad revenue jumped 14.5%, with Amazon, Snap and Facebook raking in the biggest spikes in spending.”


BlackEnterprise.com reported, “In the past, Allen has called out companies like Coca-Cola and General Motors for their poor record of working with Black-owned media. Both companies pledged last summer to do more to advance racial equity.


“Therefore, Allen is taking matters into his own hands, insisting agencies and brands shift two percent of their ad money to Black-owned media. Allen is also backing up his demand with legal action.


“Allen has filed multi-billion dollar lawsuits against Charter Communications and Comcast Cable in recent years, accusing the television giants of violating civil rights law by refusing to carry his portfolio of seven cable channels. Both cable companies denied the allegations, but both cases were recently settled out of court.”


The settled lawsuit originally went to court in 2019 when Allen brought the $20 billion lawsuit against Charter Communications and Comcast.


At the time, the Entertainment Studios CEO said, “I’m not a woman so I can’t sue on behalf of women. I can’t sue on behalf of Hispanic people. I can’t sue on behalf of gay people. If I could, I would. My standing is as an African-American, and I want equal access for economic opportunity for all Americans.”


Much of his current argument with advertisers mirrors Allen’s past beef with Comcast.


In 2019, NewsOne.com reported, “(Allen) questioned how Comcast was shelling out $25 billion annually on channel licensing, but less than $3 million on what he described as ‘100% African-American-owned media.’”


At the time, Allen said that when Comcast rejected his cable channels, an executive told him, “We don’t need anymore Bob Johnsons.”


In 1980, Johnson founded Black Entertainment Television (BET).


Johnson later went on to become the first Black American to become a majority owner of a professional sports team, the Charlotte Bobcats (now known as the Charlotte Hornets and owned by Michael Jordan).


Via his Entertainment Studios, Allen has released movies like “Hostiles,” “Chappaquiddick,” and “47 Meters Down: Uncaged.”


Hollis Bernard of RegalMag.com reported, “Entertainment Studios also owns TheGrio.com, the only video-centric website dedicated to news and issues affecting the African-American community. The website covers health, business, politics, and entertainment from an African-American perspective.”


Bernard also reported, “In 2018, Allen purchased The Weather Channel for $300 million.”


At the time of his purchase of The Weather Channel, he wanted to change the network’s narrative about climate change, making that a big part of the channel’s weather coverage.


Forbes.com said that Allen now has 65 shows on 10 television networks and streaming networks.


Allen’s Entertainment Studios employs wells over 1,300 employees.


Furthermore, TheGrio.com is the largest employer of Black journalists.


The media mogul has plans to spend $10 billion over the next few years in an attempt to become the country’s largest broadcaster.


This article was published on Friday 19 March, 2021.
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