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Advertisers urged to reach out to African-American women

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by Max Showalter, Journal and Courier

African American women represent a valuable $350 billion presence in the U.S. economy.

And Jason Chambers, an associate professor in the Department of Advertising at the University of Illinois, said companies that reach out to that segment of the buyer’s market can see a benefit on their bottom line.

“The food industry is doing well, and personal products, pharmaceuticals and the auto industry. Some companies, such as Toyota and Ford, have almost become members of the community,” he said.

Chambers was the guest speaker Thursday at the annual Diversity Breakfast, sponsored by the North Central Advertising Federation, an organization of Greater Lafayette marketing and advertising professionals.

During his presentation, he showed examples of early advertising that stereotyped black women and pointed to Essence magazine as a leading media source that helped change those perceptions, beginning in the 1970s.

“To generations of African-American women it gave them a place to be seen. They were ‘objects’ of advertising rather than ‘subjects’ of advertising. They’re aware of their history and react in certain ways. They are willing to aggressively vote with their dollars,” said Chambers, who has discussed advertising issues on The History Channel and served as a consultant on advertising history programs that were broadcast on the BBC.

But some of the latest trends in advertising and music videos are reversing a portion of the progress that had been made.

“African-Americans are the ones who are most sensitive to how they’re depicted in advertising,” he said. “Some critics say … we’re taking a step back from (presenting an) African-American as a person of character to a caricature.”

Jos Holman, director of the Tippecanoe County Public Library and co-facilitator of the community’s Diversity Roundtable, found a lot to agree with in the presentation.

“The examples and assessment are accurate in reference to how African- Americans and their images are portrayed in the media,” said Holman, who was among the 25 people who attended the breakfast meeting at the Unity Medical Pavilion.

“Things that happen in the media with race can get blown out of proportion. The media picks up on those and make it one of those stories that can become ‘historical memory.’ You remember images you’ve seen and events you’ll remember for years.”

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Written by Symphony

July 25, 2008 at 6:37 pm

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