As many major automakers continue to use multicultural advertising companies to promote their vehicles, GM has made an unprecedented move. It recently announced plans to shift its advertising dollars away from the Los Angeles-based black-owned agency, Carol H. Williams, to mainstream agencies. It isn't clear if GM will retain the minority-owned company for its Chevy brand. Although GM seems to be phasing out Carol H. Willams, they're expected to retain the services of their Hispanic-owned advertising agency, Accentmarketing.
In a casual conversation I had with a non GM automotive executive in 2007 regarding his African American marketing programs, he was only able to articulate the companies' agenda for the Hispanic community. Based on our brief, but revealing conversation, the senior level executive really had no intentions on marketing their vehicles to the African American community. Like many in corporate America, the senior level executive knew he could still earn the business, without investing extra resources. Yet, his company wasn't ignoring the buying power of the emerging Hispanic market.
From my analysis and the comments of the executive, more companies - in and outside of the auto industry - seem to be focusing their advertising dollars on the "new minority group" - Hispanics. Advertising Age, a respected mainstream advertising trade magazine, has a link on their Web site, which specifically concentrates on how corporate America is advertising in the Hispanic community. Conversely, this same magazine has no link on their Web site, targeting the lucrative African American market.
Here are the fears many of the critics have of GM shifting its advertising format: Will GM continue to provide grass-roots marketing events targeted toward the urban market such as GM's Ultimate Family Reunion Experience event presented by Radio One last summer? Will GM continue to use highly qualified African American marketing experts? Will GM use African American vendors or companies to support their advertising or grass-roots events? Will GM increase, maintain or decrease their advertising, specifically geared toward the African American market? Will GM's new mainstream ad agency only focus on magazine and radio ads, targeting black consumers? Does GM plan on grouping black consumers with the rest of their mainstream ads? Why hasn't GM eliminated its Hispanic agency? Time will only tell if this plan will work or backfire on GM. Personally, I believe GM will retain a black-owned agency, avoiding a public relations nightmare.
Ironically, up until last May, GM's advertising budget was controlled by an African American. What are your thoughts? Does it really matter if GM uses a black-owned agency or a mainstream ad agency to promote their vehicles? See what one of GM's senior executives said about their reason for restructuring.