(BET Networks recently partnered with several of the country’s largest African-American media outlets to form a media and marketing consortium aimed at encouraging advertisers and marketers to invest more resources in the black consumer marketplace. The partners pooled their resources to fund an initial campaign with print ads in major newspapers and trade magazines and they are continuing to promote their message through social media and directly to marketers. The ongoing campaign, of which the National Newspaper Publishers Association is a part of, is called #InTheBlack. In this first-person article, BET Networks chairman and CEO Debra Lee talks about the campaign and tells marketers why it’s an important initiative and how they can participate and learn more.)

Last month, we partnered with some of the country’s leading African-American media outlets to launch the #INTHEBLACK campaign. We wanted to speak with one loud collective voice to educate advertisers and consumers about the power of the African-American consumer and the unique ability the African-American media has in reaching this base directly.

Through our market and audience research we know African-Americans represent over 42 million strong mega-consumers and brand influencers with a buying power of nearly one trillion dollars annually.

Is there enough investment in the strong Black audience from advertisers and key stakeholders?

This has been a conversation happening in the industry for a long time. At our upfront presentation this year, we tackled the issue head-on, but realized we needed to do more. We knew we needed to bring together the media entities that are closest to our audience and come up with a unified strategy to address this problem. I couldn’t be more proud of all my peers who have joined this effort.

However, this is just the beginning of an effort with a very long tail. As a next step, we will educate and engage the media buying community. We are all deluged with so much information and are guilty of it not always being consistent or comprehensively touting the power of our audience.

This is our time to set the record straight.

If African-Americans were a country, they would represent the 16th largest economy in the world (slightly smaller than Canada but larger than Australia). If that’s not an impressive number, then I don’t know what is.

Even more important, we want to educate and inform our consumers of their buying strength. We want African-Americans to look at the products and services they use and ask themselves, “Are these companies in the black?”

In the future, we see great opportunity to truly celebrate those partners who consistently collaborate with the African-American community.

And finally, we want to reinforce the unique engagement that Black media has with its audience.

I grew up reading Jet and Ebony and am so proud to be able to see my daughter, Ava, flip through those same magazines today. It is important that we preserve our historically Black media publications and demand sufficient investments from advertisers as they are the pulse of what is relevant and topical in the African-American community.

As we continue down this road to truly vocalize the depth of African-American spending power, you can visit our website to keep track of our progress and find out how you can help make sure all our voices are heard.

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