A turn of the Upfront/NewFront screw unfolded March 1 at the first-ever GrowthFronts, organized by the Alliance For Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM). Instead of TV services making the case for more advertising dollars in advance for the content they’ll offer viewers during the season ahead, advertisers and ad agencies were front and center in the hot seat, detailing how they will place campaigns on media owned by and catering to underrepresented audiences. AIMM, holding court at the Henry R. Luce Auditorium inside Dotdash Meredith’s offices in New York’s Battery Park City district, is a subsidiary of the Association of National Advertisers, one of the oldest U.S. ad industry trade organizations with more than 600 company members.
The Big Message: Time to dramatically increase the amount and percentage of ad spending among independent emerging TV, radio and other media players impacting multicultural audiences, whether owned by African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans or members of the LGBTQ+ and disabled communities. In doing so, go from commercial placement here and there to multi-year partnerships that utilize a variety of ad formats. “Please make sure this is a change of mind frame, a change of heart, and the way we do business going forward,” declared Lisette Arsuaga, AIMM Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer of DMI-Consulting.
Hosts: Arsuaga and AIMM co-founders Carlos Santiago and Gilbert Davila. MSNBC anchorperson Richard Lui was a featured moderator for a pair of sessions, including a one-on-one interview with actor John Leguizamo.
What Worked: A format wherein before, during or after general sessions, advertising executives held 15-minute meetings with any of 40 independently owned media ventures. More than 500 meetings transpired throughout the event. Participating TV ventures included The Africa Channel, Impact Network, LATV, Revolt, Stellar TV, Canela Media, Nuestra Vision and Revry.
What Also Worked: Bringing up a controversial topic in both pro and con fashion: programmatic ad sales. Advocates of programmatic claim these ventures can benefit from earning revenue quicker and running more relevant, resonant ads to their audiences. Some minority-owned media organizations argue programmatic is extremely impersonal, relegated to overnight and other least-viewed time periods and discourages direct ad sales opportunities. Proctor & Gamble executives made the case for programmatic at an after-lunch presentation, while several media entrepreneurs detailed their anti-programmatic stance during their panel appearances.
What Didn’t Work: An awkward approach to audience participation. Not one moderator invited attendees to raise their hands and get a microphone to ask questions or react to the participants on-stage. Instead, some panels featured questions submitted by viewers watching the event from home or offices via livestream, or audience members able to use their laptops or smartphones — if they brought them to the event. Other sessions had no audience participation whatsoever. Honorable mention: a box lunch featuring a tasteless grilled chicken.
Data Points: National ad spending from the top seven ad agencies earmarked for independent multicultural media ventures went from $437 million in 2020 to $1.4 billion last year, according to an AIMM-presented study. Although spending more than doubled over that two-year span, that’s out of $95 billion in annual overall national ad billings from these agencies, who represent approximately 90 percent of national advertisers. At a mid-afternoon panel session, data from smart TV-distributed programmer Revry showed that the LGBTQ+ community will have $1.4 trillion in spending power this year.
News: LATV expects to launch 12 new series on its linear and smart TV-distributed channels during the 2023-24 season, including specific series geared to Afro-Latino and LGBTQ+ citizens. In recent weeks, the service launched Living & Ready and The Health Agenda, a pair of unscripted lifestyle series with Gilead as main sponsor. Separately, Canela Media has organized an innovations lab to develop new content and technology, from interactive TV to Web3 and Metaverse applications. Revry also confirmed that they will stage a Digital Content NewFront presentation in May, becoming the first LGTBQ-created and managed TV venture to participate in an Upfront or NewFront in-person program.
“Growth is the common currency of all of us. Today is historic, putting diversity in the forefront.” — ANA Chief Executive Officer Bob Liodice
“The (ad spending) numbers are shockingly low. Everyone is just blown away with how low they are.” — Todd Koons, Standard Media Index Vice President, Strategic Partnerships
“Our goal is not to play a shell game. Everyone’s investment is being increased … We want to be a catalyst for stimulating growth.” — Brianne Boles-Marshall, General Motors Diversity Media Strategy and Investment Lead
“This is unacceptably slow. It’s appalling. We need to put urgency in this matter.” — Edna Kane Williams, AARP’s Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer
“We need to see more inclusion. I want more. Things get better and richer when you have multiculturalism.” — John Leguizamo