Interep’s ‘Power of Urban Radio’ Informs & Entertains Advertisers & Ad Agency Executives.

Interep hosted its 4th “Power of Urban Radio” symposium. This marks the first of a series of “Power” events that Interep has planned for other formats and lifestyle groups.

Over 300 advertisers, media decision-makers and ethnic marketers attended the event, which focused on the African-American marketplace and Urban Radio’s powerful role in marketing to the Urban community.

Themes of the conference included the tremendous consumer power of the African-American marketplace, the growth potential to companies who actively embrace ethnic-marketing, and the competitive disadvantage for companies who continue to ignore these growing markets. Overall most speakers agreed that while ethnic marketing budgets have increased significantly in recent years, spending levels are still not on par with the consumer power of this population.

The symposium kicked off Black History Month with a mix of speakers, panel discussions, urban radio personalities and live musical entertainment. Co-hosts of the event were Lee Bailey, President of Lee Bailey Communications, and Wendy Wheaton, Nationally Syndicated Radio Personality.

Featured speakers included Charles Warfield, President & COO, Inner City Broadcasting; Chuck Morrison, Sr. Vice President, Uniworld Group; Brenda Freeman, Executive Director of Marketing & Special Events, ABC Radio Networks; Jay Williams, President, American Urban Radio Networks; and James Winston, Executive Director, NABOB.

During Mr. Morrison’s keynote address, he stressed that ethnic-marketing can no longer be an after-thought for corporations, or dabbled in as a politically-correct gesture, but rather must be viewed as a key opportunity for market expansion. He also stressed that while ethnic-marketing budgets usually include both Hispanic and Urban programs, the two ethnic markets should not compete for a greater share of a relatively small slice of ethnically-targeted ad dollars, but rather fight for a greater share of the overall marketing pie.

The Rev. Al Sharpton made a surprise appearance at the event, and took the opportunity to express his views that the federal government is not honoring its commitment to minority media and agencies.

Ken Smikle, President of Target Market News, hosted two back-to-back panels, first with advertisers, and then with advertising agencies, who successfully use Urban Radio to reach their marketing objectives. Smikle opened his session by suggesting that “No Urban Dictates,” commonly referred to as NUDs, should be redefined as “New Untapped Dollars,” or “Need for Understanding and Direction.”

One panelists on Smikle’s advertising panel was Steve Jett, National Manager of Car Advertising for Toyota Motor Sales. Toyota’s recent commitment of $150 million to ethnic-marketing makes it the largest African-American advertising account in history. Jett said that the Africa-American automotive consumer market is burgeoning, with a 22%-25% increase in automotive spending by African-Americans since 1998. He added that he hopes other auto manufacturers will follow Toyota’s lead in speaking to the African-American community. He also quoted Interep’s statistic that 96% of African-Americans listen to radio each week as a key reason to add radio to the media mix.

Another panelist, Lamont Swittenberg, Urban Marketing Manager for Hewlett-Packard, addressed the issue of the oft-cited, “Digital Divide.” Both Smikle and Swittenberg agreed that in reality the divide does not exist, but is more a factor of income level. African-Americans of equal incomes to whites are generally equal in computer and Internet usage levels. According to Swittenberg, African-American households in the mid-income ranges actually index higher than similar earning white households for computer ownership. Swittenberg also added that Hewlett-Packard is one of the few computer companies targeting this market, and hopes that it will emerge as the “go-to” brand for African-Americans.

On the agency panel, Linda Jefferson, Group Media Director for Burrell Communications, asserted herself as a strong proponent of Urban Radio, stating that her agency has tracked measurable sales results for clients utilizing Urban Radio in given markets. She added that her group uses spot radio to augment national campaigns, taking advantage of the strong connection that African-American listeners often have with local stations. She also said that media buyers should think more about the quality of an audience, and not focus solely on CPMs when buying Urban stations – a comment that drew applause from the crowd.

Smikle elaborated on this point, saying that the African-American market outperforms the general market in a variety of consumer categories, including clothing sales, yet is seldom rewarded accordingly on a revenue basis.

Jerry Boulding, Vice President of American Urban Radio Network, also hosted a panel of radio personalities and programmers, who discussed how Urban Radio forges a unique relationship with its listeners. Panelists agreed that while media buyers often focus their dollars on a few well-known syndicated Urban personalities, talent in local Urban radio, or personalities with more limited syndication, are sometimes overlooked to the detriment of the advertiser. They added that expanded budgets would allow a greater diversity of voices on Urban buys.

Julian Davis, Director of Urban Radio Marketing Services for The Arbitron Company, and Tony Washington, Radio One, Vice President Corporate Sales, presented the new Arbitron Black Consumer Study 2002. The study dispelled several commonly held myths about the African-American market, including percentages on home ownership, spending power, Internet usage, travel, and upscale shopping venues. The full study is available on www.Arbitron.com.

Attendees were also treated to a performance by hit R&B recording artists Ruff Endz, whose hit single “No More,” was a #1 hit on the Billboard R&B chart.

A webcast of the Power of Urban Radio symposium at http://www.powerofurbanradio.com

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