Multi-Cultural Advertising – Are Advertisers Missing The Mark?

It is time for advertisers to wake-up and smell the Starbucks. There is no way to deny the power that minority audiences have when it comes to marketing. Advertising has to have an “urban” market appeal just for it to be considered relevant to millennials. Commercials, TV Shows, and Music with a multi-cultural feel are often the most popular. The two biggest singles of summer 2017 were by Latin artist Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee (Despacito) and Cardi B (Bodak Yellow). These two singles have broken the record for the most downloaded song ever and the first rap female artist to hold the number one spot on the pop charts for 3 weeks in a row. So why are some companies still missing the mark when it comes to understanding how to “advertise diversity”?


Cardi B showcases multi-cultural advertising
Cardi B


Hey  Advertisers, Get With The Program

Over the past few months, we have seen major Fortune 500 companies (Pepsi and Dove/ Unilever) missed the mark when it comes to advertising to a multi-cultural market. Both Pepsi and Dove suffered profit loss due to their lack of cultural sensitivity. Companies can’t remain relevant by ignoring the cultural and ethnic diversification of America

General market agencies have not made much progress in the area of diversity. The notion that these agencies can have a relevant insight into various ethnic and cultural groups and engage diverse audiences had not proved itself. General-market agencies lack the insight and the ability to discern nuanced cultural influences.

Worse yet, multicultural agencies are often asked to simply translate irrelevant general-market campaigns for ethnic audiences, as if they were a foreign market, and call the process “adaptation.” This kind of generalization and irrelevancy of ideas is not respectful of the target audience and invariably leads to cheapening the brand equity and fray its relationships with these ethnic consumers.

Yet, these agencies are not treated fairly and they are not allowed to compete on an even playing field. While in a few categories you can see a multicultural agency landing an Agency Of Record, or lead agency, assignments, it is extremely rare for a multi-cultural shop to be retained as an AOR for general-market assignment. Marketers are seemingly willing to accept the failure of their relationship with a general-market shop every 3 years on average but are not willing enough to retain an ethnic shop for general-market assignment, even though work created by multicultural agencies targeting ethnic audiences often resonates equally well with general market consumers.

General-market agencies are not diversified, but the industry is, to some extent. There are hundreds of specialized multicultural shops, and many new ones have opened in the last 5 years. This is a reaction to the inability of general-market agencies to connect with ethnic audiences effectively, and recognition by corporate America that these specialized agencies are filling a void. Until there is more diversity in general-market advertising agencies, there will continue to be a need for African-American, Hispanic and Asian multicultural shops.


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