Byron Allen threatens to sue major brands over ad allocation for Black-owned media

If major companies didn't increase their investment in Black media, he told them, they'd see him in court.

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Byron Allen has threatened to take legal action against major corporations for their failure to significantly advertise with Black-owned media companies.

Last week, Allen — whose company Entertainment Studios owns theGrio sent letters of intent to several major brands and their ad agencies that urged them to increase their purchase of ad space to Black-owned entities by 2%.

If they didn’t, he maintained, they’d see him in court.

Media mogul Byron Allen has threatened to take legal action against major corporations for their failure to significantly advertise with Black-owned media companies. (Photo by Getty Images for Allen Media Group)

The billionaire activist and entrepreneur said he has engaged in conversations with CEOs and board chairs at several agencies and holding companies about more investment in Black-owned media since last year. He says he has not seen any real progress.

During the summer of 2020, many companies reacted to racial unrest and the evidence that the coronavirus pandemic was disproportionately affecting Black people with commitments to invest in Black communities. However, evidence of action on their behalf has not yet been borne out.

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Further, Allen posits that firms who vow to work with more “minority” companies are meeting those needs not by the investment in businesses owned by people of color, but by women.

“We are only talking about what you do with Black-owned media, and unfortunately, it is nearly extinct because of the racism on Madison Avenue,” Allen says.

According to Ad Age, Allen wants companies to “catch up” for what he calls years of “neglect” by demanding that major brands increase the cost to reach a thousand viewers, an industry-standard known as CPMs. He is also encouraging brands to do sponsorships with Black-owned media outlets and be willing to strike deals based on non-ratings guarantees.

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A lawsuit of this kind would not be the first for Allen. The media mogul settled a landmark discrimination case with Comcast and Charter Communications this year that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

In that case, Allen used the argument of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to argue that government and commercial contracts should be equitably afforded to African Americans as a means to ensure economic inclusion. The same case could be argued here.

Allen did salute IPG Mediabrands, which hosts a weeklong Equity Upfront event that aims to educate large brands and connect agencies with the minority-owned business market. It launched Monday.

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