NEW YORK CITY – The TV commercial shows a new Ford 500 sedan parked on a city street where a young African-American man admires the car as if it were his own. When a beautiful African-American woman comes along, he boasts about the car’s features.
A crowd gathers and someone even photographs the vehicle. Suddenly, an African-American businessman arrives, gets in the car and drives away. “That's my chauffeur,” says the quick-thinking young man.
The commercial scored high on a likeability test. So high that Ford is now running it on general as well as African-American TV programming, according to UniWorld Group advertising, which created the commercial.
“It’s humorous and provocative. And it has a nuance that African-Americans like a bit of braggadocio. But it also shows that black people are very concerned owners of automobiles, and in this case, the Ford 500,” said Byron E. Lewis, chairman and CEO of UniWorld Group.
Some African-Americans feel such advertising, which targets their consumer mindset, is becoming all too rare. In December, Robert Coen of Universal McCann projected that U.S. advertising spending totaled $263.7 billion last year. But ads targeting African-Americans was estimated at only $1.8 billion by Target Market News.
Companies such as Ford, McDonald’s and AT&T have earned kudos for their marketing to African-Americans. But to UniWorld’s Lewis, the pharmaceutical and financial services sectors are among those that “haven't adequately addressed African-Americans, and in many cases, Hispanic consumers.”
What's the best way to reach African-Americans? Companies should “follow the same principles as in the general market,” said Howard Buford, CEO of Prime Access, which specializes in multicultural advertising. He said companies need to understand these consumers and “should market consistently, not just on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.”