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Home arrow Political science arrow Dimensions of Racism in Advertising: From Slavery to the Twenty-First Century

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Late Twentieth-Century Multicultural Marketing Efforts

Racial discourse and construction of stereotypes clearly adapt and change over time. African Americans were demanding to be heard and recognized. However, among marketers, until the early 1980s, it was still assumed that minorities were not the most desirable marketing targets. “Mainstream advertisers, some publishers argued, wanted affluent readers who could afford the products they advertised. Denying any racist intentions, the newspaper managers said that they were merely following more affluent readers” (Wilson et al. 2003: 27). Presently many media outlets operate using a “marketing approach that seems ironic, counterintuitive and anachronistic”; but instead of targeting their media to diverse audiences, they basically “aimed for the most affluent demographic and waited for those readers or viewers to come to them” (27).

In 1979, John Mount of the Los Angeles Times marketing research department said, “We don’t approach marketing from a racial standpoint. It just happens that the more affluent and educated people tend to be White... . We want a certain class of audience, a certain demographic profile or reader, whether that person be Black, White, or Brown or Chinese or whatever ... as their income goes up and their educational level comes up ... they become prospects for our advertisers” (Wilson et al. 2003: 28). But over the 1980s, as some newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, witnessed decreases in readership, newspapers and their advertisers realized that they could no longer “sit back and wait for richer and better educated people of color to ‘become interested in a newspaper like the Times.’ ... The newspaper ownership ... recognized that they would have to compete for readers against ... the growing ethnic media” (28). Finally, by the 1990s, with the rise of various print and broadcast ethnic media, marketers realized that ethnic consumers were not a problem but an opportunity (29). Suddenly, contemporary marketers realized not only that multicultural marketing was a smart business move, but that they had a significant role to play to overcome and counteract generations of insult to minorities.

 
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