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You’d think that with African Americans possessing a buying power expected to reach more than $1.1 trillion by 2017 that advertisers would be flocking to black media to reach this valuable consumer.

But no. According to a new Nielsen report, of the $75 billion spent last year in the U.S. on television, magazines, Internet and radio advertising, less than three percent went to media focused on black audiences.

By not advertising in black media, companies are missing out on a prime market of 43 million blacks in the U.S. representing about 14 percent of the population — more than half younger than 35, says Nielsen. “In short, the message and the medium matter when selling items such as feminine hygiene products and Big Macs, both of which are purchased more heavily by African-Americans than the general population, according to the report,” writes the Chicago Tribune.

According to the Nielsen study, blacks watch 37 percent more television (an average of more than seven hours per day) than any other group. The favorite network remains BET, with four of the top 10-rated total daytime programs through June. Another favorite network in the top 10 for black viewers is ABC, home to Scandal.

Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, VP of public affairs and government relations at Nielsen, says advertisers make a major mistake when assuming that they do not need to tailor advertising to the black consumer market. “Because there are no language barriers, the assumption is ‘I can reach African-Americans with the same ads that I can reach the general market,'” she said. “In reality, there are a lot of cultural nuances that resonate more with blacks… that could actually drive up market share if you incorporated them into your marketing strategy.”

Despite the proof that broad-based campaigns don’t necessarily reach black consumers, the advertising world has been slow to react. In fact, Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Co. has been trying to drive this point across to advertisers for more than 70 years. Johnson’s  Ebony and Jet magazines have both undergone recent redesigns in an effort to attract more readers and revenue, but a striking advertising disparity between those publications and general interest magazines still exists, reports the Trib.

Ebony has a total average circulation of 1.29 million, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. Last year, according to the Publishers Information Bureau, Ebony had advertising revenues of about $48 million, up 29 percent from 2011. Compare this to general market publication Vanity Fair, which has a total average circulation of 1.21 million. Last year the magazine generated more than $268 million in advertising revenue, according to the bureau.

But Johnson Publishing CEO Desiree Rogers believes things are changing, with younger blacks undergoing a “reverse assimilation” of sorts, taking renewed pride in their cultural heritage and seeking entertainment, information and news that speaks directly to them. Because of this, she said companies employing black-oriented media and messages will be “much further ahead” in terms of influencing buying decisions among those young consumers.

MN Biz was at the American Advertising Federation’s Diversity Achievement & Mosaic Awards yesterday and it’s clear that major companies like Pepsi and State Farm are paying attention to marketing that specifically targets minority groups. Other companies are playing catch up.

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