Magazine article Marketing

Major Minority Interest

Magazine article Marketing

Major Minority Interest

Article excerpt

Media serving the ethnic communities have to fight for mainstream advertising. Hashi Syedain suspects opportunities are being missed by advertisers

A glance at the UK charts in the middle of March leaves little doubt about who is setting today's music trends. Four out of the top ten, including number one hit Oh Carolina were by black artists -- proof positive, if such proof were needed, that black urban culture is a major influence on the UK mainstream.

Meanwhile, the National Organisation of Asian Businesses has been launched and personally welcomed by the prime minister in London -- witness to the economic muscle wielded by Britain's Asian community.

Ethnic minorities form 5% of the UK population, according to the 1991 census. There are around 1.5 million Asians from the subcontinent and nearly 900,000 black people in this country. In urban areas proportions are much higher -- 8% of the inner London population is black, the census shows.

Yet despite the influence and spending power behind those communities, ethnic media are still struggling for recognition. The big issue facing them now is how to convince mainstream advertisers that ethnic media offer real opportunities -- that they deliver an attractive and different audience in sufficient numbers, at the right price to help clients shift more product.

"It's a question of education," says Yvonne Richards, advertising director at The Voice and Weekly Journal -- a theme that's echoed again and again. "Ignorance is the biggest problem. Advertisers don't know about ethnic communities and ethnic media and what you don't know you rather don't touch," says Saad Ali, director at Media Reach Advertising, which specialises in ethnic markets.

This process of education is long and slow. If advertisers or agencies have a view at all, it's often that ethnic media are poor quality, badly researched, and too marginal to be worth considering. That may have been true in the past, but recent years have seen huge improvements in the quality of ethnic media. "Three years ago I'd have had to agree that a lot was singularly uninspiring. But that is really old hat. It's no longer second class media people serving ethnic media," says Werbayne McIntyre, partner at WM&P, an agency specialising in marketing to ethnic communities.

As well as quality, the sheer number of ethnic media outlets has been rapidly growing. Titles aimed at first generation immigrants like The Gleaner, The Caribbean Times and the Asian Times have been joined by younger titles targeting UK-born blacks and Asians. Last year saw the launch of the Weekly Journal, a broadsheet newspaper aimed at ABC1 blacks, published by owners of The Voice. Eastern Eye, a weekly tabloid for the Asian community, relaunched and went national last year. On top of that there are glossy magazines, special interest titles like Black Hair & Beauty and for Asian cinema lovers, Cineblitz and Stardust.

Broadcast, too, has taken off in the past two years as ethnic stations have won incremental radio licences. Many of today's top chart hits were played on south London incremental Choice FM, long before they were given airtime on Capital or Radio One. Sunrise Radio, which broadcasts in West London and Bradford has gone on to satellite to make it available to dish owners around Europe. Meanwhile Spectrum, which broadcasts to around 18 ethnic communities in London, claims a reach of over 20% among its target audience of 1.2 million.

Television too has started to develop. AsiaVision, formerly Indra Dhnush, has been available on cable since 1986. Last July saw the launch of TV Asia, the first Asian station on satellite as well as cable and in June this year the first black entertainment channel Identity TV. Talks are in progress over possible support from its highly successful US counterpart, Black Entertainment Television (BET).

But despite this explosion of activity, progress in attracting national advertising has been painfully slow. …

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