Pepper Miller Says We Must Convince Corporations That ‘Black Still Matters’

Tue., Jun. 21, 2011 7:45 AM EDT
by Zondra Hughes

Pepper Miller

Pepper Miller, of the Hunter-Miller Group Inc., is a top-notch African American market research expert and consultant.
Miller explained during a panel that took place at the 40th Rainbow Push Coalition’s annual convention held in Chicago, that many major corporations are second-guessing the need for black-owned media and cultural specific advertising campaigns.

Miller says the Post-Race euphoria, where race isn’t even a topic for discussion in polite circles, is leaving the black consumer, black media and black businesses behind.

“Nobody wants to talk about race today,” Miller said. “People believe it’s forward thinking to not look at race and to not talk about race. So why do we need a black agency? Why do we need black media — because people are people, is what people say.”

Additionally, Miller explained that in some focus groups, younger African Americans expect to see whites, even when the ad campaign is culture-specific for them. This attitude strengthens the argument that a culture-specific ad buy, with a black-owned agency, to a black-urban media buy, may not be needed.

“In focus groups, young people will say today, ‘Where are the white people in the ads?’ That’s what is happening today. Realistically, you get a group of black people and you show them a black ad with a black moderator and they ask, where are the white people?” she said.

Miller said that she helps corporations to understand the value of the black consumer and that now more than ever, the black audience is not a monolithic one.

“Corporations are saying no to black people. Obviously, they’re saying no because of budget [concerns], but they’re also saying no because language is the cultural identifier today; not what we do or how we think. So I try to bring some understanding to them and help them to understand that race and identity and ethnicity is very important in culture; they are intertwined. I help corporations understand the value of black people, that when some of them say in focus groups, ‘where are the white people?’ that that might not be your target,” said Miller.

During the civil rights era, blacks generally moved in sync, but that’s no longer the case.

“African Americans today are more splintered than they’ve ever been before. We are making sure black culture is alive in these industries,” said Miller.

Pepper Miller concluded, “Black media, still matter. Black still matters.”

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