In 1976, President Gerald Ford decreed Black History Month a national observance. In celebrating it, he said, "We can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."
For decades, advertisers had been among those "neglecting black accomplishments." Until the '70s, as Advertising Age put it, ads in the U.S. represented blacks as "Aunt Jemimas, Uncle Bens and Rastuses—individuals subservient to whites." As we were misrepresented in ads, we were underrepresented in board rooms: In 1978, five percent of the ad industry's workforce was composed of black and Hispanic workers. I wish I could tell you how far the industry has progressed since then. But in 2014, some 36 years later, African Americans made up only 5.8% of the ad industry.
Here's why that lack of progress should motivate you to make change: The demographic shift of the ad audience has far outpaced the demographic shift of the ad industry. Millennials are the most diverse generation in our nation's history: Three-quarters of Baby Boomers are white, compared to just over half of millennials.
The demographic shift of the ad audience has far outpaced the demographic shift of the ad industry.
As the minority becomes the majority, they are eager to see ads that openly address diversity and race-related issues. We partnered with Ipsos and Nielsen to better understand how black millennials think about media and advertising, and the results show a desire for brands to do more. I challenge more marketers to respond to these expectations and make inclusive advertising a brand imperative.
Black millennials want to see more inclusive advertising
Ads have always reflected culture, but black millennials are asking brands for more. Three-quarters of them would like to see brands better represent diversity in ads, and 70% say they are more likely to buy from a brand that takes a stand on race-related issues.1 In other words, don't just reflect society—push it forward. When brands do, they'll see a business impact: Three-quarters of black millennials say they're more likely to consider a brand that positively reflects black culture.2
Black millennials engage with media that represents black voices
Representation matters. Black millennials watch substantially more YouTube on mobile than other millennials.3 Why? Perhaps it's because they feel represented there in a way they don't in traditional media. Nearly two-thirds of black millennial viewers say YouTube is a place where black people have a voice.4 To put that in perspective, less than half say the same for TV.5
Black millennials are highly engaged mobile viewers
It's clear that black millennials want more diverse media and more inclusive advertising. Recent Nielsen research shows they also want to be able to watch whatever they want, wherever they want on mobile devices.
Black millennials watch 73% more YouTube on mobile per person than the general population of the same age.6 Their mobile watch time has more than doubled on YouTube in the last two years.7 Brands have been prioritizing mobile for years, championing mobile-first creative and mobile-first media strategies. If advertisers are prioritizing mobile, they should prioritize inclusivity too, with the mobile black user in mind.
Finding inspiration in #YouTubeBlack Creators
The Nielsen research shows black millennials are more engaged than ever on YouTube. A key driver of that engagement is YouTube's community of diverse creators. In fact, black millennials are significantly more likely to feel a sense of personal connection to YouTube creators than traditional celebrities.8
The Ipsos research suggests there might be room for advertisers to learn from those creators on inclusion. For brands interested in making more inclusive ads, we asked YouTube creators to weigh in on best practices and suggestions they'd share with advertisers. Click below to meet some of the top #YouTubeBlack creators and hear what they have to say to advertisers this Black History Month.