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By: Charing Ball

Burger King, one of the nation’s largest fast food restaurants, is planning on dropping UniWorld Group and LatinWorks, its African-American and Hispanic ad agencies, in favor of general-market advertisers. According to the New York Times, The King’s plans are in response to new marketing trends suggesting that young consumers, one of BK’s target markets, are less likely to use traditional labels of race and ethnicity.  As a result, the fast food chain has expressed a desire to present a more “consistent voice,” to appease Generation X and Y’s beliefs that the world is truly “a melting pot”.

The move has caught the attention of the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition (RPC), headed by Jesse Jackson. The organization issued a statement last week urging Burger King to reconsider its plans and to complete “a diversity and inclusion survey to determine exactly what the company’s business relationship is with the minority community.”

According to the Times, one-third of Burger King’s North American operations are composed of minority-group members.  Yet, The King intends to hand over his African-American and Hispanic assignments to Group and Wunderman and Crispin Porter & Bogusky, more mainstream agencies.

Burger King is certainly within its right to pursue a more mainstream image for its brand, but is it smart business to abandon Black and Hispanic-owned ad agencies in the process?

The short answer is, No.  Burger King has made a major faux pas in that its decision is based on the assumption that Black and Hispanic-owned ad agencies are unable to convey a message for a more racially-inclusively audience.  Now here’s the long answer:

As a Generation X’er, which makes me part of BK’s target market, I am not inclined to buy a product just because black people are hawking it on T.V. and the radio.  However, if the product is made specifically for black folks and by black folks, I might be more inclined to at least consider it.

Moreover, there are some “black versions” of commercials, which do a half-way decent job marketing and intertwining common black experiences into its product.  However, all too often, these black versions come across as anomalous, if not outright ridiculous, to those of us who make up the intended audience.

While the poetic sonnets about cheeseburgers, Hot R&B songs about chicken parts, and the Sir-Mix-A-Lot-esqe Kid’s Meal commercial (produced by Crispin Porter & Bogusky), are amusing to a certain degree, the representations are somewhat foreign to me.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve never wanted to break out into a rap battle over a Whopper Jr.

The inaccuracy of depictions in many of these black versions of television and radio commercials reflects what is happening behind the ads.  Black Enterprise’s Diversity Report recently listed Burger King as one of the “40 Best Companies for Diversity”, a list that judges among other things, how well these corporations do business with black suppliers.  By terminating its relationship with minority-led advertisers, The King is totally overlooking diversity , the real cornerstone of the melting pot, an image it so badly wants to communicate in order to draw customers.
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