Apr 8, 2021 - Economy & Business

Why Diddy is calling out Corporate America

Shot of Sean "Diddy" Combs
Photo: Jason Koerner/Getty Images

A fight between Black-owned media and corporate America is heating up. The latest to jump into the fray: Sean "Diddy" Combs.

Why it matters: It's a new ripple in a decades-long battle to get businesses to diversify how they spend ad dollars, a critical revenue source for media companies to survive.

What they're saying: "We demand that Corporate America reinvest an equitable percentage of what you take from our community back into our community," Combs, who founded digital network Revolt, wrote in a new letter today.

  • "If the Black community represents 15% of your revenue, Black-owned media should receive at least 15% of the advertising spend."

Catch up quick: For weeks, there's been tension brewing between Black media executives and General Motors.

  • A group of Black industry leaders — led by media mogul Byron Allen — called out the automaker as particularly egregious for spending less than 0.5% of its ad budget with Black media. (GM disputes this figure).

Driving the news: The car company last week vowed to raise its share of advertising with Black-owned media to 8% by 2025, amid the growing pressure.

  • Combs name-dropped GM in his letter, after the company listed Revolt as one of the companies it advertises with.
  • GM has agreed to have "a series of meetings with Black-owned media over the next few weeks," a spokesperson says. (That includes Revolt, that company tells Axios.)
  • A previously scheduled meeting with Black media execs was postponed by GM CEO Mary Barra last month, the Detroit Free Press reports — causing more tension.

Where it stands: Combs says less than 1% of ad dollars went to Black-owned media companies in 2019.

  • A Procter & Gamble executive estimated last year that roughly 5% of marketing spend goes to non-white owned businesses.

The big picture: "We're literally making $1 out of half of a penny," Detavio Samuels, Revolt's CEO, tells Axios.

  • "In a world where advertisers only give you 1% of their total budget, or distributors refuse to carry you, you can't get the revenue to make the content your audience deserves," Samuels says.

The backdrop: Allen has long pushed for major companies to spend at least 2% of their marketing budgets with Black-owned media outlets, Axios Media Trends author Sara Fischer notes. Verizon this week became the latest to get on board.

  • The issue of a lack of investment in Black media channels came to a head last summer during the Black Lives Matter protests, as companies pledged to address their role in inequality.
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