African Americans Seem Receptive to Ads – But Few Target Them

October 11, 2019

African-American consumers display an above-average likelihood to find various types of advertising useful, but the advertising investment focused on this group tends to under index their population share, per a recent report [download page] by Nielsen.

Per US Census Bureau data quoted in Nielsen’s report, the population of Black Americans was estimated at 47.8 million in 2018, with more than one-quarter (26.1%) being between the ages of 18-34-years-old.

Data from the report suggests that African-Americans are receptive to advertising. For example, they are 42% more likely than the average adult to agree that advertising on their mobile phones provides them with meaningful information about product use. Additionally, the study found that Black American consumers not only are more likely to feel that advertising on their mobile phones is useful, but they are also less likely to agree that mobile phone advertising is annoying or not credible.

Black Americans are also more likely than the average American adult to agree that advertising on television (23% higher), radio (21% higher) and the internet (18% higher) provides them with meaningful product information.

Despite these positive attitudes towards advertising, advertisers spent a total of 5% less on African American-focused media between 2017 and 2018. Indeed, media spend designed to reach African American consumers decreased year-over-year (y-o-y) in all areas, including network TV (-13%), digital (-12%) and syndicated TV (-11%). Other research also highlights the under-representation in media spend for African Americans, who represent 13.4% of the total US population yet account for only 1.4% share of targeted US advertising and brand activation spending.

Nielsen postulates that advertisers are not focusing specifically on the African American population because there is no language barrier to overcome, in addition to the fact that African Americans consume content on the same platforms as the general population. However, the analysis in the report remarks that “these approaches simultaneously ignore the lived experiences of Black consumers that define Black culture, and the growth proposition these consumers represent for all consumer industries.” As such, there’s a strong argument to be made that this group is being underserved.

Cable TV ad spend focused on African Americans saw the smallest decrease at 1% y-o-y. It also accounted for the lion’s share of African American-focused media spend ($10.1 billion) in 2018. The focus on cable TV is not without its merits. Of the top 20 recurring broadcast and cable shows, 16 in 20 of those watched most by African Americans between 18-34-years-old (and 8 in 20 for those older than 35 years old) were on cable TV networks. And it’s true that African-American adults remain heavy viewers of traditional TV – spending twice as much time as Hispanic adults and three times more than Asian-American adults.

To read more, the full report can be requested here.

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